United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday that he is ‘deeply concerned’ by the growing number of violent attacks targeting civilians and U.N. peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, and warned perpetrators could face international justice.
Mr. Ban said he is deeply concerned about the deteriorating political and security situation in Ivory Coast, where the country has been mired since November in a post-election standoff between the defeated incumbent and the newly elected president.
Speaking to reporters during a news conference, the secretary-general said he has credible accounts of grave human rights violations, and called attempts by loyalists of defeated President Laurent Gbagbo to constrict supplies to the U.N. mission and their blockade on the Golf Hotel where President-elect Alassane Ouattara is holed up with his government, "unacceptable”"
Mr. Ban said he also has ‘concrete intelligence’ that the former president and those around him are inciting their followers to violence, both against fellow Ivorians and the United Nations.
"Let me be perfectly clear: attacks on civilians or international peacekeepers constitute crimes under international law. So is incitement to commit such crimes," he said. "The International Criminal Court has declared its intention to open investigations. I call on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and I state once again in the strongest possible terms: those committing or inciting acts of violence will be held responsible."
Mr. Ban said the U.N. force, known as UNOCI, would continue to patrol and protect civilians, as well as protect the Golf hotel. He said the United Nations would not be deterred from its duty in Ivory Coast, nor would it be intimidated.
The Secretary-General has asked the U.N. Security Council to reinforce UNOCI with approximately 2,000 more troops and police. The council is expected to authorize that request early next week. The force currently has a little over 9,000 troops and police.
Mr. Ban said it is ‘frustrating’ that Mr. Gbagbo will not heed the calls of the international community and the will of the Ivorian people and step down. He added that he would discuss the situation further with African leaders later this month at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.