ABIDJAN (1st December 2012) – Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, warned today that failure to bring perpetrators of serious human rights crimes to justice quickly could lead to recurrent violence in Côte d'Ivoire.
After visiting Nahibly, a desolate camp near Duekoue in the west that was the scene of an attack on displaced people on 20 July, Šimonović stressed the urgency of completing investigations into the incident and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
“The tragic incident at Nahibly reminds me of the scenes in Duekoue on my last visit in 2011. Bodies were being exhumed from mass graves. The victims of those crimes are still waiting for justice. Such impunity – the failure to hold the perpetrators of horrendous crimes accountable – creates a grave risk of continuous violence,” he said.
The government has launched investigations into the Nahibly attack that left at least eight people killed and many more unaccounted for. Local officials and aid workers told Šimonović that the fragile security situation and fear of reprisals are hindering investigations. Šimonović said, however, that quick, thorough and credible investigations were essential for the sake of not only justice, but also reconciliation and prevention of future attacks.
In Man, Guiglo and Duekoue in the west, civil society representatives and community members expressed concern about unresolved land disputes, illicit circulation of arms and activities of Dozos, traditional hunters that have become a paramilitary group. Šimonović noted that these concerns have the effect of denting confidence in the authorities and could fuel conflict. He urged the government to continue efforts to reform the security sector despite the challenges posed by armed attacks on military positions and state facilities in parts of the country.
“It is essential to continue with security sector reform, in particular to strengthen the police and gendarmerie to take back their law and order functions from the army and paramilitary groups,” he said. “It is equally important to take all necessary measures to prevent and to punish cases of arbitrary detention and torture.”
In Abidjan, Šimonović met President Alassane Ouattara and Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan. “I was encouraged by their commitment to accountability no matter the ethnicity, religious or political affiliation of the perpetrators,” he said.
He also met with the Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Public Liberties, Gnenema Coulibaly; the delegate Minister of Defense, Paul Koffi Koffi; and the General Public Prosecutor, Koffi Kouadio Simplice. He held discussions with representatives of the governing coalition, Rassemblement des Houphouétistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP); the main opposition party, the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI); and senior United Nations officials.
The visit, 27 November to 2 December, is the second in as many years by the United Nations human rights official. His last visit, 2 – 9 April 2011, came at the height of the political crisis that followed the disputed 2010 elections.
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