|"UN peace keeper patrol vehicles secure an area in a highly visible presence in Abidjan, Ivory Coast Wednesday amid concerns of escalating post-election violence in the country." (Sunday Alamba/AP)|
MSNBC.com, December 30, 2010
"UN advisers expressed fears Thursday about ethnic violence in Ivory Coast after mass graves were reported and Abidjan's new ambassador to the United Nations warned that the West African nation was on the 'brink of genocide.' Reports of dozens of bodies being dumped near a large forest emerged as human rights groups warned that security forces loyal to incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo were abducting political opponents after the disputed election. Now the United Nations believes up to 80 bodies may have been moved to a building nestled among shacks in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood. Investigators have tried to go there several times, and even made it as far as the building's front door before truckloads of men with guns showed up and forced them to leave. Simon Munzu, the head of the UN human rights division, urged security forces Thursday to allow investigators inside. Gbagbo's government has repeatedly denied the existence of mass graves following violence over the disputed presidential runoff that has left at least 173 confirmed dead already.
'We would be the very first to say that these stories are false if they turn out to be false,' Munzu said. 'Our findings on the matter and their announcement to the world would have a greater chance of being believed than these repeated denials.' Human rights groups accuse Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and torturing political opponents since the disputed Nov. 28 vote, which the UN said Gbagbo lost. UN investigators have cited dozens of reported cases of disappearances, and nearly 500 arrests and detentions. The United Nations has said that security forces accompanied by masked men with rocket launchers also had prevented UN personnel from reaching the building. Munzu said witnesses have said between 60 and 80 bodies are believed to be inside. A second mass burial site is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, the UN said. Those suspected victims are in addition to the 173 deaths already confirmed by the UN Gbagbo's allies say that several dozen of them are police or security forces killed by protesters. The reports of mass graves raise new concerns about human rights abuses as Ivory Coast's neighbors discuss how to remove Gbagbo from power. Regional leaders initially threatened to consider military force if Gbagbo did not step down following a high-level delegation visit Tuesday. [...]"