Ambassador Donahoe: Human Rights Situation in Côte d’Ivoire is “Grave and Deteriorating”

At the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council on Follow-up to the Human Rights Council 14th Special Session –Côte d’Ivoire
Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States thanks the High Commissioner for her report, which can leave no doubt that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is grave and deteriorating. We deplore the gross abuses of human rights and trampling of fundamental freedoms in Côte d’Ivoire. The recent killing of at least seven women in Abobo who were peacefully protesting in support of President Alassane Ouattara, is but one instance of unconscionable violence we have seen from Ivorian security forces. Furthermore, despite months of comprehensive efforts by the international community, Mr. Gbagbo’s intransigence has pushed Côte D’Ivoire to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.

By convening the special session in December, the international community sent a strong, unified message expressing profound concern regarding human rights abuses and violations, and insistence upon respect for the democratic processes. Mr. Gbagbo has not heard this message and continues to defy the will of the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire, who have elected Mr. Ouattara as their President. It is vital that the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner remain vigilant in responding to these horrific abuses, and that we do not let up pressure in response to a situation that is clearly deteriorating.

Continued reports of mass human rights abuses and violations of international law must be investigated, including: enforced disappearances, targeted killings, arbitrary detentions, and intimidation of those that oppose former President Gbagbo, as well as the discovery of possible mass graves. The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) must be granted access to investigate human rights abuses, especially the reported mass graves, and to carry out patrols throughout the country to bolster confidence and deter further abuse. Threats against UNOCI and restrictions on the movement of UNOCI staff are an affront to the international community.

We are disturbed by the High Commissioner’s account of attacks on religious buildings and worshippers. We strongly urge all parties to respect the freedom of religion. The United States is also alarmed by reports of sexual violence. Providing better protection to civilians from violence, including sexual violence, is of utmost importance to the United States. We call on all parties to investigate and hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes. The singling out of individuals of specific nationalities for violence and abuse must also be stopped. Innocent Ivoirians suffering the effects of the political stalemate should not have to live in fear of violent and brutal attacks.

We are pleased that the Ivoirians are introducing a resolution on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire at this session. This initiative deserves our strong support. It is important that Members of the Council strongly support this effort to send an unequivocal message to former President Gbagbo that he must respect the will of the Ivorian people, step down immediately, and acknowledge that President Ouatarra is Côte d’Ivoire’s legitimate head of state. We also believe it critical that the Council heed the proposal of the Ivoirians to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate these events with a view towards ensuring that those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses are held accountable.

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