Côte d’Ivoire: In view of the intensification of the fighting, the Security Council and the ICC must act now.

Press release
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The FIDH and its members organisations in Côte d’Ivoire, the Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme (LIDHO) and the Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains (MIDH), are deeply concerned about the escalation of the fighting and violence in Côte d’Ivoire and call on the UN Security Council to strengthen the UNOCI’s action mandate to protect civilian populations and call on the ICC to open an investigation.

Since March 28, 2011, the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI), pro-Ouattara forces, have conquered several cities in the West, Centre and East of the country [1] and are now approaching Abidjan, causing many confrontations with the Defense and Security Forces (FDS), close to Gbagbo’s camp. The widespread fighting across the country and increasing human rights violations have caused civilian casualties. 500 have been killed since the elections and thousands have been injured.

In the context of this escalation, violence against the population is continuing and has intensified. Thus, the FDS fired on the population in Abidjan on March 29, killing 22 people in the neighborhoods of Abobo-PK 18 (12 dead) and Willimansville-Adjame (10 dead). New execution processes have been generalised as "necklacing torment” which consists in burning people alive by setting fire to a tire placed around their necks. This punishment, a daily routine practice in Abidjan, is used by Laurent Gbagbo’s militias, especially the Young Patriots. There have also been several instances of looting in several cities by the FRCI, local people or pro-Gbagbo militia: in Daloa and Gagnoa respectively, the FRCI and civilians have reportedly looted houses, in Douékoué and Guiglo, this is pro-Gbagbo militias who are reportedly responsible for such looting.

These violent acts have added to a humanitarian situation, which is deteriorating from day to day. Fleeing the violence, the number of displaced persons is increasing and there are now over 1 million displaced persons and refugees, including nearly 116,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries, especially Liberia, Ghana, Togo and Mali [2]. In Abidjan, the population continues to leave the city en masse. Displaced persons, refugees, and the entire civilian population urgently needs food and medical aid.

FIDH, LIDHO and MIDH are very concerned about the recall, by the Army Chief of Staff, General Philippe Mangou, of the Young Patriots who have been registered since March 21, 2011 to be effectively recruited in the ranks of the FDS. Our organisations are worried that this call, if acted upon, will constitute the final step toward a civil war and the use of civilians in the fighting.

“The international community must respond more firmly in order to protect civilians and prevent Côte d’Ivoire from plunging into a civil war. The resolution that is currently being reviewed by the UN Security Council must include a prohibition of the firing of heavy weapons in Abidjan but must also strengthen the UNOCI action mandate to allow it to prevent acts of violence against the population when they are in danger”, said Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

FIDH urges all the forces involved to respect international humanitarian law and human rights, to stop looting and to safeguard the freedoms of speech and of the press. FIDH recalls that all actors will be held accountable for their actions. “The situation now falls within the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction ", said Sidiki Kaba, FIDH honorary President. “The crimes which have been committed are too serious and the ICC now has no other choice but to open an investigation into crimes against humanity which have been committed in Côte d’Ivoire. Furthermore, this would guarantee that the perpetrators, whoever they are, will be prosecuted”, he added.

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