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UN Security Council Condemns Human Rights Abuses in Ivory Coast - 2004-05-15

The U.N. Security Council has condemned human rights abuses in Ivory Coast, especially those that occurred during recent anti-government demonstrations.

The Security Council Friday issued a cautious statement condemning rights abuses in Ivory Coast. The statement followed a briefing from acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan on a report charging the government with orchestrating a deadly crackdown on demonstrators in Abidjan.

But the statement, read by the current council president, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, avoided blaming the government for the deaths of 120 demonstrators.

"The members of the Security Council firmly condemn the violations of human rights," he said. "They note that putting an end to impunity is important for resolving the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire and urge that those responsible for violations of human rights, in particular those committed on March 25th and 26th in Abidjan be held accountable."

The statement urged formation of a national human rights commission to investigate events going back to a failed coup attempt in September, 2002. It also expressed the Security Council's determination to take rapid steps to ensure those responsible for rights violations in Ivory Coast would be held accountable.

But it gave no indication what those steps might be, or when any further action might be taken.

The human rights commissioner's report sparked a furious reaction from President Laurent Gbagbo's government when it was leaked to French media this month. The report concludes that top government officials ordered security forces to use indiscriminate force against protestors during the March 25th demonstrations.

Ivory Coast officials have said rally organizers, not the government, were to blame. They accused the United Nations of trying to destabilize the country by leaking the report to journalists.

Ivory Coast is the world's top cocoa producer, and was long considered on of Africa's most stable countries. But it was plunged into civil war after a failed coup attempt against President Gbagbo in 2002.

The United Nations has authorized a force of more than six-thousand peacekeepers to patrol the front lines of the conflict, along with four thousand French troops, who are under a separate command.