A United Nations commission is arriving in Ivory Coast Thursday to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law since a failed coup attempt in September 2002. The commission, made up of lawyers and judges, is expected to spend three months visiting Ivory Coast, as well as neighboring countries.
The five-member commission, along with forensic experts, will visit the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south of Ivory Coast to hear testimony of human rights violations. The commissioners come from Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Tunisia and Portugal.
A spokesman for the U.N. human rights commission, Gianni Magazzeni, says Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo welcomes the commission's arrival.
"There is an understanding and a welcoming and a cooperative attitude vis-ŕ-vis the work of this commission, which is about to arrive in Cote d'Ivoire," he said. "I think the major issue is that it's important to address the question of impunity, to establish the facts and circumstances of major human rights violations that may have taken place since the 19th of September 2002. So, it's important for the future of Cote d'Ivoire."
The failed coup attempt of September 19, 2002, left Ivory Coast split in two, and a peace accord signed in January of last year has yet to be implemented.
Earlier this year the United Nations sent a commission to investigate a military crackdown on a demonstration. The commission reported that more than 120 people had been killed. That report implicated the highest members of government in the civilian deaths.
The U.N. spokesman says the new commission has a difficult job, but a worthwhile one.
"It's a big country, and certainly it will be impossible for five commissioners and five support staff and some forensic experts to be able to do everything," he said. "But I think they will establish their work plan, and identify priority events that they want to totally investigate. I think they will be able to do a good job, and they will certainly shed light into major issues of human rights that will contribute to peace and stability, that will contribute to the fight against impunity in Cote d'Ivoire."
The United Nations has threatened sanctions against Ivory Coast, if it does not end the political impasse and implement the 18-month-old peace agreement. Among other things, the accord would grant national identity and land ownership rights to many northerners, who are currently not considered Ivorian citizens. All political and rebel parties have agreed to attend peace talks to be held in Accra, Ghana on July 29.