The Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide has called on the authorities in to Côte d'Ivoire to break the cycle of impunity for human rights abuses so as to eliminate mistrust and hatred between communities in the divided West African country.
At a news conference at the end of his four-day visit to Côte d'Ivoire, Juan Mendez said his mandate was not to determine whether there had been genocide, but to prevent it.
He said he was delighted that no massacres had been recorded since June, even though the situation remained tense. In that regard, however, the serious violations of human rights and the inter-communal hatred in the rebel-held north and Government-ruled south had to be monitored, he said.
He deplored the climate of mistrust, as well as the misinformation and rumours spread by those in positions of authority and those in the media, fuelling division and hatred. He urged both of those groups to ensure that they did not pour oil on the fire by making or relaying irresponsible statements.
Besides that, the massacres that have aroused the indignation of the international community have met only a local political impasse and persistent impunity. Noting the presence of many illegally-armed and well organized militias across the country; Mr. Mendez called for their immediate disarming.
The Special Adviser pleaded in favour of the settlement, in a transparent manner, of the issue of national identity in order to allow for free, democratic and really representative elections. The identity question has played a part in fomenting years of political unrest and inspiring a failed 2001 coup.
The relevant authorities should work towards holding exams as soon as possible, Mr. Mendez said, emphasizing that schooling helps prevent human rights violations since it helps students and young people to direct their future towards peace instead of joining armed groups.
Mr. Mendez, who arrived in Côte d'Ivoire on Tuesday, travelled to the west of the country and to the zone under the control of the rebel Forces Nouvelles, in addition to meeting the Ivorian head of the State and several other politicians.