Ivory Coast mass graves investigation launched by UN

January 3, 2011

David Smith and agencies, The Guardian

UN peacekeepers have been ordered to do everything in their power to investigate reports of atrocities and mass graves in Ivory Coast, where post-election violence is alleged to have left more than 200 people dead.

The instruction came as the opposition leader Alassane Ouattara repeated his call for the international criminal court in The Hague to send a mission to examine the actions of troops loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo.

In a new year’s message Gbagbo made clear he would continue his game of brinkmanship despite pressure from the UN and world leaders for him to avoid a return to civil war by standing down and allow Ouattara to enter office.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, phoned Ouattara yesterday. “The secretary-general told President Ouattara that he was alarmed by the reports of egregious human rights violations,” a UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said.

The UN believes up to 80 bodies may have been moved to a building in a pro-Gbagbo neighbourhood in the capital, Abidjan. Investigators have tried to visit several times, and even made it to the front door before truckloads of armed men forced them to leave.

A second mass grave is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, according to the UN mission in Ivory Coast, known as UNOCI.

Nesirky added: “He [Ban] said UNOCI had been instructed to do everything possible to gain access to the affected areas both for prevention and to investigate and record the violations so that those responsible will be held accountable.”

Residents in an area alleged to be the site of a mass grave said last month that the military had closed off the site and chased away anyone who came near. Gbagbo’s interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, insisted there was no such grave.

Ouattara has asked for the ICC to send a mission to investigate reports of post-election violence committed by pro-Gbagbo forces. Ouattara reiterated that request during his phonecall with Ban.

To read more, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/02/ivory-coast-mass-graves-investigation

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