UN chief underlines warning against attacking peacekeepers in Côte d'Ivoire

Elements from the Jordanian Formed Police Unit (FPU) at the headquarters of UNOCI

19 December 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized his warning against attacks on the United Nations peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire or attempts to obstruct their work, saying there will consequences for those responsible, as the UN human rights arm reported “massive violations.”

“Any attack on UN forces will be an attack on the international community and those responsible for these actions will be held accountable,” said a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General, which added that Mr. Ban was aware of statements by the Laurent Gbagbo's spokesperson calling for the withdrawal of the UN force.

“Any continued actions obstructing and constricting UN operations are similarly unacceptable,” the statement released late on Saturday added.

The UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) will continue to fulfil its mandate and to monitor and document any human rights violations, incitement to hatred and violence, or attacks on UN peacekeepers, Mr. Ban said.

In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed deep concern over the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights taking place in Côte d'Ivoire since 16 December, and reiterated her determination to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions.

“When people are victims of extrajudicial killings there must be an investigation, and there must be accountability,” Ms. Pillay said, noting that in the past three days there has been more than 50 people killed, and over 200 injured.

“However, the deteriorating security conditions in the country and the interference with freedom of movement of UN personnel have made it difficult to investigate the large number of human rights violations reported,” she added in a press release on Sunday.

Côte d'Ivoire has been plunged into political uncertainty after the incumbent president refused to concede electoral defeat recently. The UN has endorsed the victory of opposition leader and President-elect, Alassane Ouattara, in the run-off presidential elections held on 28 November, despite outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo's claim to have won.

In the early hours of Saturday, armed men in military uniform fired at a UNOCI patrol vehicle and at sentries standing guard at the headquarters of the peacekeeping force in Côte d'Ivoire commercial capital, Abidjan.

Mr. Ban said those attacks were perpetrated by elements of the Ivorian security forces apparently loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, adding that a separate attack on UN military observers by Young Patriots, a group linked with the outgoing president, on Saturday left two military observers wounded.

“There will be consequences for those who have perpetrated or orchestrated any such actions or do so in the future,” the statement said.

The Secretary-General said the Security Council will meet once again on Monday to discuss the situation in Côte d'Ivoire and the renewal of UNOCI's mandate, which is due to expire on 31 December 2010.

“The international community has spoken with one voice regarding Mr. Gbagbo's attempt to hold onto power. The statements issued by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union in this regard have shown that the African Continent is united in its commitment to respect the democratically expressed will of the Ivorian people and have recognized Mr. Ouattara as the President-elect,” the statement added.

Ms. Pillay said UNOCI has received reports from hundreds of victims and members of their families about the abduction of individuals from their homes, especially at night, by unidentified armed individuals in military uniform accompanied by elements of the defence and security forces or militia groups.

Abducted people are reportedly taken by force to illegal places of detention where they are held incommunicado and without charge. Some have been found dead in questionable circumstances.

“I call upon all parties concerned to respect the human rights of all Ivorians, without discrimination,” Ms. Pillay said. “UN human rights officers in Cote d'Ivoire are on the alert and will continue to closely monitor the situation across the country.”

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