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'Death Squads' Linked to Ivory Coast Gov't Responsible for Killings, says Report - 2003-02-05


A U.N. report said death squads responsible for a wave of executions in Ivory Coast have links to some government officials in the country.

The report was compiled by the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, who went to Ivory Coast in late December to investigate charges of human-rights abuses by government and rebel forces.

The 28-page report which was obtained by the Associated Press said that "the death squads are made up of elements close to the government, the presidential guard and a tribal militia of the president's ethnic group."

According to the report, the bodies of executed people were found in a forest near Abidjan, Ivory Coast's main city, and the death squads had lists of people targeted for killing.

The Ivorian government has repeatedly rejected allegations that it has links with death squads and has accused northern rebels of killing government supporters in Abidjan to destabilize the country.

A spokesman for the U.N. human rights office said the report did not imply there were direct links between the death squads and President Gbagbo and other senior Ivorian officials.

His comments followed a report in the French daily newspaper La Croix, that said the U.N. human-rights investigators accused President Gbagbo's "inner circle" of links with the death squads. The human-rights spokesman said the French newspaper had "overstated" the findings of the U.N. team.

Human-rights groups say scores of people in Ivory Coast have been killed or abducted by death squads since a failed presidential coup in September. The four-month-old civil war has caused the deaths of hundreds of people. An estimated one million people have been displaced.

The government and rebels have traded charges of human-rights abuses, including looting, rapes, and murders.

The report accuses some elements of the national media of fanning the flames of ethnic hatred. It draws comparisons with hate-filled broadcasts in Rwanda, which led to the 1994 genocide.

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