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Statement by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Council 14th Special Session on "The situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire since the elections on 28 November 2010"

 Geneva, 23 December 2010

Mr. Vice President,
Distinguished Members of the Human Rights Council,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured and delighted to address this assembly on behalf of the High Commissioner who is abroad.  We commend the Human Rights Council for convening this Special Session on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  I reiterate her deep concerns regarding violations of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire and the alarm of the Secretary-General that the current spate of violence triggered by the October-November 2010 presidential polls may escalate further.

Following the proclamation of the results of the elections, the political stalemate has been characterized by the use of excessive force by the supporters of Mr. Laurent Gbagbo  to repress public gatherings and marches; harassment and intimidation; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture; disappearances; and extrajudicial killings.  These acts are ominously reminiscent of the violence that blighted the country in 2004, and are blatant violations of obligations under international human rights law.  I must stress that international law requires that the right to life be respected at all times, all persons deprived of their liberty be treated humanely and according to due process. Further, there should be no unacknowledged detention, abduction, or enforced disappearances. Deportation or transfer of population, or forced displacement by expulsion or other coercive means are forbidden. 

Despite the extremely difficult circumstances on the ground, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Choi Young-jin and all United Nations staff continue to seek a peaceful and fair outcome to the crisis and valiantly endeavor to provide assistance to the population.  UN human rights officers are deployed across the country, particularly in areas most affected by the violence.  They are doing their utmost to monitor the situation and provide protection where they can.  The Human Rights Council should lend its support to these brave colleagues on the ground.

The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) has established a 24-hour “green line” through which allegations of human rights violations can be reported. On average, 300 calls per day are received on this line. 

Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances.

Unfortunately, it has been impossible to investigate all the allegations of serious human rights violations, including reports of mass graves, due to restrictions on movement by UN personnel.  Indeed, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General was stopped at gunpoint, as he sought to verify such allegations.

Yet, it is precisely at times of strife that human rights monitoring and reporting are essential. On 20 December, the Security Council unanimously renewed the mandate of the UNOCI for six months and emphasized the need for protection of civilians.

The current restrictions imposed by security forces and youth groups loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, must be lifted immediately.  Such infringements on freedom of movement have also hindered the capacity of the United Nations to deliver much-needed services and humanitarian assistance.

The deteriorating conditions and general insecurity have severely hampered economic and social activities for many Ivoirians, especially the poorest, resulting in the serious infringement of economic and social rights.

Some 6,000 Ivoirians have fled to Liberia and over 200 to Guinea since 3 December.  Hundreds of persons are internally displaced.

I remain very concerned about the monopolization of many means of communication, including state television and radio, by those loyal to Mr. Gbagbo. Foreign TV and radio broadcasters considered favorable to President-elect Alassane Ouattara have been banned for several weeks and their radio broadcasts are constantly scrambled.

I repeat the United Nations’ call upon Ivoirian leaders to prevent violations of all human rights and to refrain from any incitement to violence and hatred.  Perpetrators of this and other abuses must be held accountable.

Excellencies,

The Security Council urged all Ivorian parties and stakeholders to respect the will of the people and the outcome of the election in view of ECOWAS and African Union’s recognition of Alassane Ouattara as President-elect of Cote D’Ivoire and representative of the freely expressed voice of the Ivorian people.  

This position is fully grounded in human rights norms, particularly the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which establishes that the authority of a government flows from the will of the people.  Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Côte ’d’Ivoire is a party,  echoes such principle and recognizes and protects the right of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the right to vote and to be elected.  Moreover, the Human Rights Committee, the body that monitors the implementation of the Covenant, in its General Comment 25 confirmed the importance of independent scrutiny of the voting and counting processes.

I remind the Human Rights Council of the strong condemnation by the Economic Community of Western Africa States and the African Union of human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire.  Such violations must cease, the United Nations must be granted unfettered access to the population and perpetrators must be held accountable.  I exhort all Ivoirians to exercise their rights peacefully and respect the rights of others.   I convey again the High Commissioner’s call on the country’s leadership to ensure that abuses are stopped and further abuses prevented and those responsible for violations held to account.

Let me conclude by assuring you that OHCHR stands by all efforts to promote justice, peace, security and respect for human rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

Thank you.