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Côte d’Ivoire: UN rights experts call on all parties to spare civilians and stop human rights violations

GENEVA (1 April 2011) – A group of UN human rights experts warned Friday about the serious human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, killing and maiming of children, and sexual violence.

Giving their full support to the Security Council resolution 1975*, adopted this week, the independent experts said that what is happening in the country may be tantamount to international crimes, of which the International Criminal Court may take action.

“I strongly condemn the killing of civilians, they are bearing the brunt of the on-going violence,” stressed the Special Rapporteur on arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. “According to witnesses, civilians are being killed for expressing affiliation with particular political parties or killed in retaliation. Such actions are deplorable and must cease. It is the responsibility of both parties to the on-going crisis to ensure that they do not target civilians.”

"The situation is very serious,” said the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez. “I call on all parties to respect the fundamental and non-derogable right to be free from torture. Ill-treatment of civilians is unacceptable and must stop."

The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, drew special attention to allegations of violence against women, including acts of sexual violence, committed by armed men. “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of violence against women for political ends,” she said.
“In addition to being directly targeted by such violence, women also bear the brunt of the indirect consequences of conflict, in particular as when, as primary breadwinners and protectors of their families, they are deprived of the possibility to provide them with the most basic needs,” Ms. Manjoo noted.
On his part, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, stressed that respect for human rights is a key factor in the prevention of displacement. “In Côte d’Ivoire, grave human rights violations are at the root of the forced displacement of an estimated 700 000 to one million persons, both within and outside the country.”

“These persons require urgent international humanitarian assistance in the immediate, assistance in finding durable solutions and in rebuilding their lives, as well as to see that justice is done,” he said. “I applaud the resolution of the Human Rights Council and at the same time appeal to the international community to also urgently meet the humanitarian and durable solutions needs of the displaced.”

“We are extremely concerned about the numerous reports regarding the involvement of English-speaking mercenaries in these attacks against civilians,” stated the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, José Luis Gómez del Prado. “The recruitment of such mercenaries is prohibited under international law.”

“No State shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances” said the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Jeremy Sarkin, recalling article 2 of the UN Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. “These actions trigger not only State responsibility, but may also amount to crimes against humanity in certain circumstances.”

The Special Rapporteur on racism, Githu Muigai, demanded an end to attacks against foreign nationals, and joined his voice to the appeal made by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 4 March to promptly investigate and punish those responsible for ethnic violence. “I call on all parties to refrain from any advocacy of national or racial hatred that may incite to discrimination, hostility or violence,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue expressed their concern at the continuous vulnerability of human rights defenders and journalists who report on human rights violations.

The group of experts also welcomed the Human Rights Council resolution 16/25, which established an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious abuses and human rights violations.

(*) Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Jeremy Sarkin; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Seggakya; Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani; Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, José Luis Gómez del Prado; Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo.

For an earlier statement by UN human rights experts, see: “Côte d’Ivoire: UN experts deeply concerned with gross human rights violations which may amount to crimes against humanity”: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10617&LangID=E

For more information and media requests, please contact Kellie OGNIMBA (Tel: +41 22 917 92 68 / email: KOgnimba@ohchr.org)