GENEVA (Reuters) - Led by African states, the U.N. Human Rights Council Thursday unanimously condemned deadly political violence in Ivory Coast and called for reconciliation to avoid renewed civil war.
Nearly 200 people have been killed in the West African country in politically motivated bloodshed that must be halted and fully investigated, the United States told the forum. The United Nations put the toll at more than 170.
At a special session, requested by African states, rich and poor countries denounced grave human rights violations including killings and abductions since last month’s disputed presidential election and raised concern that they could increase.
The 47-member forum adopted by consensus a resolution brought by Nigeria on behalf of African states that strongly condemned the loss of life and called for all crimes to be investigated and civilians protected.
“It is regrettable that the current political impasse instils a palpable fear of further escalation of the human rights situation,” Nigerian diplomat Ositadinma Anaedu said.
African countries also urged all media in Ivory Coast to refrain from inciting violence and sponsoring speeches promoting hatred.
“We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated, and others have been snatched from their home in the middle of the night,” U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said.
U.N. human rights officers have substantiated allegations that at least 173 people have been killed, 90 tortured, and 471 arrested or detained between December 16-21, Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the session.
Earlier Thursday, Ivory Coast’s army said it stood behind presidential incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is under international pressure to quit after the November 28 election that major powers say he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara.
The prime minister of Ouattara’s rival government, Guillaume Soro, has said the “only solution” to the crisis was for world leaders to use force to oust Gbagbo if other measures failed.
King told the forum, where developing states often vote as a bloc, that there was widespread agreement that the insecurity spreading in Abidjan needed to be stopped before it worsened.
The session had sent a “unified and unambiguous message” that violence must end, she told reporters later.
Amnesty International representative Patrizia Scannella denounced killings, unlawful arrests and enforced disappearances, violence against women, incitement to violence, attacks on places of worship and denial of medical treatment during mass protests in Abidjan.
“Security forces and militiamen loyal to Laurent Gbagbo are reported to have shot at unarmed demonstrators point blank,” Amnesty said.
The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS have all recognized electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the winner of the election and have called on Gbagbo to step down.
The United States and the European Union have also slapped travel sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, and the World Bank Wednesday froze funding to the country, to which it has aid commitments of over $800 million.
Editing by Tim Pearce