UN says attack on Ivory Coast civilians may have been a war crime

So far, events in the Ivory Coast have received far less attention than those in Libya, even prior to the military intervention in the latter.

Ivory Coast may not have the proximity to Europe of Libya, or a ruler to match the eye-catching nature of Colonel Gadaffi, but it has a President who has refused to leave office after losing an election and who has refused to cooperate fully with the UN.

UN troops have already been deployed to the country but a political stalemate has ensued as the UN has not been willing to authorise further steps, such as the eviction by force of defeated President Laurent Gbagbo.

There does not appear to be a simple way of resolving the conflict, and the lack of public interest in Ivory Coast compared to Libya has done nothing to encourage governments to look to bring the stalemate to an end. So the relative lack of further action in Ivory Coast may be understandable, but it’s not only governments that have not shown an interest; it’s the wider public too.

That, however, may be about to change following the horrific shelling of civilians  last week – and the UN’s description of them as a war crime:

The shelling of an Abidjan market by Ivory Coast security forces which killed at least 25 people may be a crime against humanity, the UN says.

Allies of disputed President Laurent Gbagbo have denied UN claims they fired the shells.

They landed in the district of Abobo, which is under the control of militias who back his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo refuses to step down although Mr Ouattara is widely recognised as the winner of last year’s poll.

A statement from the UN mission in Ivory Coast says that about 100 people were killed or maimed by at least six 81mm mortar shells.

“Such an act, perpetrated against civilians, could constitute a crime against humanity,” it says. (BBC)

Sunder Katwala touches on some of the steps the international community might take if it give the Ivory Coast a greater priority. But in the meantime the UN estimates that more than 400 people have now been killed since the November Presidential election.

Yet the Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivoire  has only been named four times in debates in the House of Commons since the start of the year compared with Libya’s 37 mentions.

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