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In letter to Côte d'Ivoire leader, Annan endorses inquiry into rights violations

In letter to Côte d'Ivoire leader, Annan endorses inquiry into rights violations

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has sent a letter to President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire endorsing a panel of inquiry into human rights violations that have occurred during the civil turmoil that erupted more than five months ago.

The Secretary-General sent the letter after President Gbagbo requested the set up of an International Commission of Inquiry. He said the panel’s mandate should enable it to establish the facts and circumstances that led to the current crisis in order to shed light on the human rights and humanitarian rights violations – as well as fighting against a culture of impunity.

The Secretary-General also says that the establishment of such a commission "is in the spirit of the Linas-Marcoussis agreement," the French-brokered peace accord signed and adopted in Paris last month establishing a two-year power-sharing arrangement between the Ivoirian Government, rebels and political opposition.

The commission should determine the nature and identify those responsible for human rights and humanitarian rights violations committed in Côte d'Ivoire since 19 September 2002, the letter says. The panel will have to recommend measures that will put an end to impunity and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and that the victims and their families are compensated. It will also have to specifically investigate acts committed by the so-called "Death Squads" and other such groups.

Meanwhile, a UN spokesman in New York said an advance UN team is scheduled to leave Geneva today to see whether the conditions are right for deployment of the Commission. The team – comprising experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Department of Political Affairs, as well as one forensics expert – will begin work this weekend in Côte d’Ivoire to determine what cooperation such an investigation would receive.