Serious human rights violations were committed during the demonstrations held in Côte d’Ivoire in February following the dissolution of the Government and the national electoral authority, according to the United Nations mission in the West African nation.
“Among the violations, we recorded abusive and extrajudicial executions, physical violence, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of people arrested, as well as illegal arrests and detentions committed by agents of the Defence and Security Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FDS-CI),” said Simon Munzu, head of the human rights division at the UN mission, known as UNOCI.
The report of UNOCI’s investigation, which was released on Thursday, noted that 13 people died and at least 94 were injured during the demonstrations, which were organized by the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) after President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The President’s actions followed a period of rising tensions after voter registration for the country’s presidential elections – which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005 but have been repeatedly postponed – were suspended.
Mr. Munzu told a news conference in Abidjan yesterday that, in addition to the deaths and injuries, many cases of physical violence, plunder and destruction of private and public property were committed by demonstrators. The report estimates that the demonstrations resulted in damage valued at $1.8 million.
“The conclusions of the investigation into the events of February should serve as a lesson in order to avoid past errors in this pre-electoral period,” said Mr. Munzu.
The report makes a number of recommendations to the Government, political party leaders, the UN and the international community.
For example, it invites the UN to examine all requests for a waiver of the arms embargo on Côte d’Ivoire to help the country import anti-riot materials, “since the lack of these materials leads the law enforcement forces to resort to firearms,” the mission said in a news release.
A new Government and IEC were established following the events in February, and it was announced earlier this month that the elections are now scheduled to be held on 31 October.
UNOCI was established by the Security Council in 2004 to facilitate the peace process in Côte d’Ivoire – which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south – including those related to elections, disarmament and all aspects of the reunification of the country.
The mission has been providing logistical and technical assistance for the preparations for the presidential elections.