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Ivory Coast Warring Sides Brace for Sanctions

Leaders from warring sides in divided Ivory Coast are bracing for sanctions from the United Nations Security Council as well as possible prosecution before the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

The sanctions could include travel bans and freezing assets of those found blocking the peace process, which has made no progress recently.

French radio Friday said a preliminary U.N. human rights report indicated rebel leader Guillaume Soro has been found responsible for executions in the rebel-held north, while the wife of President Laurent Gbagbo, Simone Gbagbo, was alleged to be behind death squads in the government-run south.

The report did not name Mr. Gbagbo, angering rebel spokesman Drissa Ouattara. "Mr. Laurent Gbagbo has violated a cease-fire," he said. "He must be among those who must be punished. He's the one who must be punished, he and his fellows, those who are working along with him."

A lawyer for Ivory Coast war victims, Patricia Hamza, said all sides should be punished. "I'm expecting from the United Nations to condemn all kinds of abuses of human rights," she said, "and I expect they will take a good decision for the victims, for all the people who have suffered against these abuses."

French radio said the U.N. report also recommends prosecution at the Hague-based International Criminal Court for those responsible for war crimes.

Abidjan-based human rights activist Amourlaye Toure said this could be the only way to end impunity. "It is important for the international community to take this problem in Ivory Coast in front of international justice," said the activist, "and we agree with this because if there is no solution in front of international justice we think that impunity will stay in Ivory Coast for a long time."

The Security Council will also consider tightening an arms embargo against the warring sides. It was issued in December, but there were conflicting statements this week from U.N. officials about whether the Ivorian military would be able to repair fighter planes and helicopter gunships destroyed by French peacekeepers in November.

Northern-based rebels fighting for equal rights for northerners have refused to disarm, accusing Mr. Gbagbo of blocking full implementation of successive peace deals.