Continuing violence in Côte d’Ivoire. The international community must speak up.

FIDH is deeply concerned by the increasing and ongoing violence being perpetrated in Côte d’Ivoire and fears a little more every day that the situation will deteriorate into a real civil war.

In Abidjan the security situation is particularly alarming. Internally Displaced Persons, whose numbers now stand at nearly 400 000 people, continue to flee the fighting between Defense and Security forces (FDS), close to the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo, and Alassane Ouattara’s allied forces (“New Forces”). Over the past few days, shootings from heavy weapons and Kalashnikovs were heard in several neighborhoods of the city in particular in the south of Yopougon or in Adjame and there is an important risk that the confrontations will quickly spread throughout the city, with important consequences on the civilians’ safety. In the Yopougon Port-Bouet 2 district, several witnesses have reported that businesses have been burned down or vandalized, that people have been abducted from their homes. In this district, the mosque was vandalized and the Imam was killed.

Civilians in the western part of the country also continue to flee fighting between the two camps. Almost 70 000 Ivorian nationals are reported to to have already taken refige in neighboring countries. The number of refugees is likely to rise due to intensified fighting in the area where the New Forces, loyal to Alassane Ouattara, have taken control of several towns, including the city of Doke.

Around 400 people have died since the second round of presidential elections. FIDH urges the conflicting parties to show restraint and calm to avoid a human tragedy and insists that responsibility of the perpetrators of the human rights violations must be established, including, if necessary, before the International Criminal Court, which has been seized with regard to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire. In this regard, FIDH has asked the Human Rights Commission, currently holding its 16th session, to establish as soon as possible an International Commission of inquiry on the human rights violations which have been perpetrated in Côte d’Ivoire since the second round of the presidential election.

"Côte d’Ivoire is on the edge of a civil war. So far, neither mediation attempts, nor economic sanctions have been able to influence the position of Laurent Gbagbo’s camp. Nonetheless, the abuses continue and it is the civilians who are suffering the most. Those responsible for these crimes must understand that they will be brought to justice. Rushing ahead is not a solution." said Roger Bouka, General Secretary of FIDH, who participated in fact-finding mission in Côte d’Ivoire from February 22 to March 2 2011 [1]

FIDH welcomes the decision adopted on March 10 2011 by the African Union Peace and Security Council which reaffirmed the election of Mr. Ouattara as President of the Republic of Ivory Coast and called all Ivorian parties to "refrain from any actions likely to complicate the situation and to process for a way out of the crisis" [2]
. However, it reiterates its call on the international community to spare no effort to assist the Ivorian political crisis’ settlement and to contribute to the protection of civilian populations.

Furthermore, FIDH calls on the Security Council to show its determination to preventing an escalation of the Ivorian crisis into an armed conflict by providing immediate support and necessary resources to the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) so that it can fulfill the terms of its mandate to protect civilians, in particular by ensuring, as soon as possible, the deployment of 2,000 additional peacekeepers, as stated in the 1967 Resolution unanimously adopted on January 19, 2011 by the Security Council.

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