Statement by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

15 November 2004

The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Juan E. Méndez, has written to the Secretary-General expressing his concern over the situation in Cote d'Ivoire . The Special Adviser has been particularly distressed by reports of hate speech and the ensuing actions of armed, militant groups. The current crisis has deepened sentiments of xenophobia and could exacerbate already worrisome and widespread violations of human rights, which in the recent past have included extra-judicial executions, torture, arbitrary detention, disappearances and sexual violence.

The Special Adviser recalls that the Ivoirian authorities have an obligation to end impunity and to curb public expressions of racial or religious hatred especially those aimed at inciting violence. It should be recalled that, in the absence of effective action by courts of national jurisdiction, incitement to violence directed against civilians or ethnic, religious or racial communities can be subject to international action, including under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. For instance, the Security Council could refer the situation in Cote d'Ivoire to the International Criminal Court. It bears noting that Cote d'Ivoire lodged a declaration with the Registrar accepting the exercise of jurisdiction by the International Criminal Court with respect to “acts committed on Ivoirian territory following the events of 19 September 2002 .”

Given the present circumstances, the Special Adviser recommends that the national authorities:

If the xenophobic expressions persist and they cause the further evacuation of essential humanitarian relief workers, the Special Adviser recommends that the UN and Licorne troops already in the field should be expanded and instructed to deploy so as to afford direct protection to civilian population at risk of attack because of their ethnic, religious or citizenship status.