Ivory Coast Government Defiant Amid Claims Of Human Rights Abuses


The ruling Ivory Coast government remained defiant Thursday, insisting that incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo should stay in power and that his supporters have acted justly despite a global outcry.

International critics have questioned his legitimacy and harshly condemned purported human rights abuses committed by his backers.

Between last Thursday and Tuesday, said Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, human rights officers "have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances." And she said that the actual numbers, in fact, may be much higher.

"Unfortunately, it has been impossible to investigate all the allegations of serious human rights violations, including reports of mass graves, due to restrictions on movement by U.N. personnel," she said. "Indeed, the special representative of the secretary-general was stopped at gunpoint as he sought to verify such allegations."

While acknowledging "the situation is very, very difficult to live" in, Charles Ble Goude -- the nation's youth minister under Gbagbo -- said the government is "dealing with that."

He said Thursday that "the U.N. report is not correct," especially in its fingering fellow Gbagbo backers as being to blame for the recent violence.

Instead, he accused supporters of the president's political rival, Alassane Ouattara, of using weapons at what had been billed as peaceful rallies to attack soldiers. He also said Ouattara's backers burned a building that housed government troops.

The violence is fallout of the November 28 presidential runoff, after which the country's Independent Electoral Commission named Ouattara the winner. But its Constitutional Council invalidated those results and declared that Gbagbo won.