Tue, Dec 21, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Reports of abduction in Ivory Coast rise

LOOKING FOR RESOLUTION:International pressure on Laurent Gbagbo to concede defeat is growing; as the EU gave him until Sunday to do so, or face heavy sanctions

AP, ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST

The UN said on Sunday it has received hundreds of reports of people being abducted from their homes at night by armed assailants in military uniform and that there is growing evidence of “massive violations of human rights” since Ivory Coast’s disputed election.

The statement from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights came a day after the UN said it would remain in Ivory Coast despite demands from the man refusing to give up the presidency that thousands of peacekeepers get out of the West African country.

Navi Pillay, the top UN human rights official, said on Sunday that more than 50 people have been killed over the past three days in Ivory Coast. Previous estimates were that up to 30 people had died in the violence.

“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,” Pillay said in a statement released from her office in Geneva.

It also said that the armed assailants behind the home abductions had been “accompanied by elements of the Defense and Security Forces or militia groups.”

International pressure is mounting for Laurent Gbagbo to concede defeat to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, whose victory has been recognized by the UN, the US, former colonizer France and the African Union.

In Washington, the US State Department on Sunday ordered most of its personnel to leave Ivory Coast because of the deteriorating security situation and growing anti-Western sentiment.

The order issued on Sunday exempts only the State Department’s emergency personnel. US officials also warned all US citizens to avoid travel to the West African nation until further notice.

The EU was giving Gbagbo until Sunday to concede defeat or face sanctions that would include an assets freeze and a visa ban on him and his wife. The UN Security Council was also expected to meet yesterday to discuss Ivory Coast’s political crisis.

Still, experts say there are few strong options for forcing Gbagbo out of office and it is unlikely the African Union or others would back a military intervention.

“The trouble is both sides are clearly preparing now for conflict, and a cornered Gbagbo shows little sense of the national tragedy unfolding through his brinkmanship,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at Chatham House, an independent research center in London.

Vines said it was more likely that the African Union would seek a “soft landing” for Gbagbo, though it remained unclear whether he would consider such an exile offer.

In a statement read on state television on Saturday, Gbagbo’s spokeswoman said that 9,000 UN peacekeepers and another 900 French troops supporting them were to leave the West African country immediately.

Gbagbo accused the UN mission of backing Ouattara and arming rebels who support him.

The UN had been invited by the country itself to supervise the vote and certify the outcome following a peace accord after Ivory Coast’s 2002 to 2003 civil war.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said late on Saturday that the UN mission, known as UNOCI, would stay in Ivory Coast despite Gbagbo’s demand.

The UN Security Council yesterday also planned to discuss the renewal of UNOCI’s mandate, which is due to expire on Dec. 31.

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