Rights group: Ivory Coast probe lacks credibility

Feb 23, 2012, 7:27 PM

Associated Press

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) – Ivory Coast’s investigation into last year’s postelection violence appears to be hasty, one-sided and politically compromised, a human rights group said Thursday.

Human Rights Watch says the independent commission’s 17 members are all under the control of the government and the investigation into crimes committed appears rushed, having taken less than two months to complete.

The U.N. estimates at least 3,000 people were killed following the 2010 presidential election in Ivory Coast. For the first three months of the conflict, the perpetrators were overwhelmingly from the regime of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after losing the vote.

Once he was forced from power, a wave of reprisal killings was carried out by troops allied with the government now in office.

President Alassane Ouattara, who was internationally recognized as the legitimate winner of the 2010 vote, has promised to investigate the killings by both sides.

Created in July 2011, the commission began its work in mid-January and already is finalizing its report just a month later, which the rights group called a “red flag.”

“It appears unlikely to have adequately either documented the conflict’s serious crimes or identified those responsible on both sides after only a month of investigations,” the group said in a statement.

The commission also has not traveled to neighboring Liberia, where about 70,000 Ivorian refugees remain, many of them victims and witnesses to crimes committed by Ouattara’s forces, the statement said.

In power for a decade, Gbagbo was declared the loser of the 2010 election both by his own country’s election commission and an independent U.N. mission. He refused to cede office to Ouattara for the next five months until U.N. airstrikes obliterated his defenses in April, making it possible for a rebel army allied with Ouattara to invade the commercial capital.

Gbagbo was arrested and held under house arrest until being indicted by the International Court in The Hague in November, where he is now awaiting trial.

The national inquiry was created after a U.N.-established panel found that both sides had committed war crimes and likely crimes against humanity.

“An incomplete or one-sided report would impede efforts to provide justice to victims and bridge the communal divides that have spurred a decade of serious human rights abuses,” said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch says all of the at least 120 people charged by military and civilian prosecutors with postelection crimes are from the Gbagbo camp.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Rights group: Ivory Coast probe lacks credibility