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Concern for Côte d’Ivoire

Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. December 16, 2010. UN Photo/Basile Zoma

As the political standoff in Côte d’Ivoire enters its seventh week, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) issued a second statement on Wednesday about human rights violations in the aftermath of disputed presidential elections. “We remain gravely concerned about the possibility of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Côte d’Ivoire. We believe that urgent steps should be taken, in line with the 'responsibility to protect', to avert the risk of genocide and ensure the protection of those at risk of mass atrocities,” the statement said.

The dual UN offices cited reports of armed forces and militia groups loyal to both opposing factions recruiting and arming ethnic groups; hate speech that appears to be aimed at inciting violence against particular ethnic and national groups; ethnic clashes; and ongoing displacement.

“We fear we are on the brink… of something very destructive. We have not crossed the precipice yet,” said Ed Luck, the Special Adviser on R2P, in a press briefing. “It is not a question of pointing fingers. It’s very important that all parties recognize that the international community is watching.”

Responding to a question on the importance of engaging leaders on “prevention from a constructive angle,” Francis Deng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, explained, “The word genocide tends to make people a little nervous and sometimes not so responsive. I see genocide as an extreme form of identity-related conflicts – not resulting from mere differences, but the way we manage our differences.”

The Security Council also decided on Wednesday to reinforce the 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping presence in Côte d’Ivoire with an additional 2,000 troops.

For more information, see the first statement on December 29th from Deng’s and Luck’s offices and recent statements from Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group.