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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4 Comments

  • Mark, your general premise is :-

    “Better to occasionally do right than never do it”

    Unfortunately that statement is a long way from complete.

    If a police officer stops someone who is speeding and finds them drunk at the wheel, the ‘right’ thing to do is prosecute them. If he twiggs that the drunk driver is the son of the Chief of Police, it’s not good enough to say that he will not do ‘the right thing’ on this occasion.

    We are in a very difficult bind. I know it’s cynical , but it is nonetheless true, that he people in the middle east who are doing ‘the wrong thing’ have their hands on the oil spigots. Lets not try to dress up our inconsistent approach to the rights and wrongs of our foreign policy.

    As far as the Ivory Coast is concerned, I think I am right in saying that their main export is Cocoa. We can’t run 4×4’s on cocoa. The Ivory Coast is toast.

    Being cynical, does not mean being wrong.

  • Mark
    I fully understand your point, and you are still wrong.

    The ‘occasions of not doing right’ is called turning a blind eye.

    We do the right thing when there are NO or few consequences, and we ‘fail to do the right think on some occasions’ because we have established that there may be severe consequences if we do the ‘right thing’

    It’s sad, but in the end, those that have resources we want, can do what they want.

  • “failing to do the right thing on some occasions shouldn’t be an excuse for never doing it.”

    That has been Cameron’s line on Libya from the beginning but it would be unfair to credit him with it when we heard it ad-inifinitum from Blair as one of his constant justifications for Iraq.

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