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Ivory Coast President Denies Alleged Human Rights Abuses - 2003-02-28


A debate is raging in Ivory Coast over alleged human rights abuses. The government of Ivory Coast is going on a public relations offensive over allegations of human rights violations during the country's five-month civil war.

President Laurent Gbagbo has called a rare news conference this Saturday to address United Nations allegations that his government has unleashed death squads against his opponents.

The president has been stung by a U.N. report that his presidential guard and members of his Bete tribe are running the death squads. Government spokesman have denied the charges, and say the U.N. report is biased.

President Gbagbo has proposed the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate the death squad allegations. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has endorsed the idea.

In a separate development, the government is asking the U.N. Security Council to open a case against the northern-based rebels in the International Criminal Court. The court is scheduled to open in the Netherlands in April.

The request follows an Amnesty International report that says rebels summarily shot 52 unarmed policemen and eight of their sons in early October in the northern city of Bouake.

Rebel spokesman dispute this, saying the policemen died during combat.

France and the United States have recently condemned human rights abuses committed during the Ivorian civil war that broke out in September. Both countries have demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

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