At the end of a visit to Côte d'Ivoire, a senior United Nations human rights official today warned that failure to quickly bring perpetrators of serious human rights crimes to justice could lead to recurrent violence in the West African nation.
The remarks of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, followed a visit to Nahibly, a remote camp near the town of Duekoue in the country's west that was the scene of an attack on displaced people on 20 July
"The tragic incident at Nahibly reminds me of the scenes in Duekoue on my last visit in 2011. Bodies were being exhumed from mass graves. The victims of those crimes are still waiting for justice. Such impunity - the failure to hold the perpetrators of horrendous crimes accountable - creates a grave risk of continuous violence," Mr. Simonovic said, while also stressing the urgency of completing investigations into the incident and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Government has launched investigations into the Nahibly attack, which left at least eight people killed and many more unaccounted for, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The UN official last visited Côte d'Ivoire in April 2011, at the height of the political crisis that followed its disputed 2010 elections.
Local officials and aid workers told Mr. Simonovic that the fragile security situation and fear of reprisals are hindering investigations - he said that quick, thorough and credible investigations were essential for the sake of not only justice, but also reconciliation and prevention of future attacks.
In Man, Guiglo and Duekoue in the west, civil society representatives and community members expressed concern to the UN official about unresolved land disputes, illicit circulation of arms and activities of Dozos, traditional hunters that have become a paramilitary group.
Mr. Simonovic noted that these concerns have the effect of denting confidence in the authorities and could fuel conflict, and urged the Government to continue efforts to reform the security sector despite the challenges posed by armed attacks on military positions and state facilities in parts of the country.
"It is essential to continue with security sector reform, in particular to strengthen the police and gendarmerie to take back their law and order functions from the army and paramilitary groups," the Assistant Secretary-General said. "It is equally important to take all necessary measures to prevent and to punish cases of arbitrary detention and torture."
While in the city of Abidjan, Mr. Simonovic held meetings with a range of Government officials and political representatives, and others, including President Alassane Ouattara and Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan. "I was encouraged by their commitment to accountability no matter the ethnicity, religious or political affiliation of the perpetrators," he said.