Special UN Adviser on Genocide Warns of Ethnic Hate
Messages in Côte d'Ivoire
New York -- (UNNC) November 15 2004
-- Voicing distress over reports of xenophobic hate speech in Côte d'Ivoire
and ensuing action by armed groups, the United Nations adviser on the
prevention of genocide called today for an end to impunity and warned that the
situation could be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"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 extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary
detention, disappearances and sexual violence," Juan E. Mendez said in a
statement recommending possibly increasing the number of UN peacekeepers in
Côte d'Ivoire to protect civilians.
Mr. Mendez, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Adviser, said he had
written to the UN chief to express his concern at the situation in the West
African country, which has been engulfed by escalating violence since
government forces attacked northern rebels earlier this month in violation of
a nearly two-year-old ceasefire agreement.
At least 10,000 Ivorians are estimated to have fled into neighbouring
Liberia and hundreds of expatriates have been evacuated with UN help from
Abidjan, the country's largest city, as anti-French rioting erupted after
French troops destroyed the Government's air force in retaliation for the
deadly bombing of French peacekeepers in the UN-patrolled Zone of Confidence (ZOC)
separating the combatants.
UN officials have repeatedly condemned the hate messages broadcast on
television and radio, most recently last Thursday when Mr. Annan himself
warned that they could lead to "the devastating resurgence of ethnic conflict."
Mr. Mendez said today Ivorian authorities had an obligation to end impunity
and curb public expressions of racial or religious hatred, warning that in the
absence of effective action such incitement can be referred to
He recommended that national authorities put an immediate end to the
propagation of hate speech and media-induced violence through official outlets,
aggressively prosecute all acts of violence and incitement, and recommit
themselves to the ceasefire accords that ended the fighting two years ago
between the government in the south and rebels in the north.
"If the xenophobic expressions persist and they cause further evacuation of
essential humanitarian relief workers, the Special Adviser recommends that the
UN and Licorne (French) 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,"
the statement concluded.
UN officials are concerned that the unrest in Côte d'Ivoire could spill
over into neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, both recovering from
protracted civil wars, and Guinea where there has also been unrest.