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Civil Society Groups Urge Urgent Action on Ivory Coast

Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch says the UN must increase the capacity of its peacekeeping mission to allow it to enforce its mandate

Youth supporting sitting president Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011
Youth supporting sitting president Laurent Gbagbo receive military style training in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 23, 2011

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  • Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch spoke with Butty

James Butty

A coalition of 32 international and African civil society organizations says greater measures are urgently needed to protect civilians and meet fundamental humanitarian needs in Ivory Coast.

In a report released Friday, the group says the humanitarian situation caused by the ongoing conflict in Ivory Coast has reached a critical level.

Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, one of the 32 organizations that prepared the report, says the U.N. Security Council must increase the capacity of its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to allow it enforce its mandate.

“We think that the situation is extremely worrying right now in Cote d’Ivoire, and we really feel that the international community has not really stepped up to the plate as it should. People are being killed daily in Ivory Coast, and we are really on the brink of a resumption of a full-fledged civil war, and the victims of the conflict so far have been mainly civilians. And so we think it’s really time for the [U.N.] Security Council and the U.N. system in general to react very strongly,” he says.

Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia
Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia

Since its beginning, the Ivory Coast conflict has reportedly killed more than 460 civilians and caused dozens of politically-motivated rapes as well as illegal detentions.

Bolopion says while supporters of both incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and internationally-recognized President Alassane Ouattara have committed human rights violations, Gbagbo supporters have been responsible for more serious violations," he said.

“There is no question, from our research, that the forces under the command of Laurent Gbagbo have been responsible for extremely serious human rights abuses. We actually think that they qualify as crimes against humanity. Now, on the other side, on the pro-Ouattara side, there is a new emerging pattern of abuse which might not be serious in terms of numbers so far but which match the other side in terms of cruelty,” Bolopion says.

In its report, the coalition calls for those responsible for serious rights abuses to be held accountable for their crimes.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), after their meeting Thursday in Abuja, Nigeria also urged the United Nations to strengthen the mandate of its peace mission in Ivory Coast.

Bolopion says the coalition of civil society organizations are also urging the U.N. Security Council and its member states to equip the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast to enable it to effectively protect civilians

“In my view, the peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire has already a very strong mandate. It has a mandate that allows it to use force to protect civilians. What they need to do is better implement this mandate when it comes to protecting civilians,” Bolopion says.

The group also urges the U.N. Security Council to expedite the arrival of 2,000 additional peacekeepers that were authorized several weeks ago and have not arrived and provide them with the proper equipment and training.

Bolopion says the coalition is also urging the Security Council to sanction Laurent Gbagbo for his role in the ongoing crisis.

“We also think that the Security Council needs at this point to sanction Laurent Gbagbo for his involvement in the current situation. We think that the Security Council should adopt an asset freeze and a travel ban to and should increase the pressure on people around him who might be involved," Bolopion says.

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