UN focuses on human rights abuses in Ivory Coast

Human rights groups in Ivory Coast warn that security forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo have been abducting political opponent in the past weeks. UN confirms at least 173 deaths.

Ivory Coast UN 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ivory Coast UN 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — The United Nations said that it will do everything it can to locate areas where human rights abuses have allegedly occurred in Ivory Coast following disputed presidential elections.
Human rights groups have warned that security forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power, have been abducting political opponents in recent weeks. The UN also believes up to 80 bodies may have been moved to a building nestled among shacks in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood.
RELATED: UN: At least 173 killed in Ivory Coast during violence
Investigators have tried to go there several times, and even made it as far as the building's front door before truckloads of men with guns showed up and forced them to leave. A second mass burial site is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, the UN said. Gbagbo's government has repeatedly denied the existence of mass graves.
The UN has confirmed at least 173 deaths.
Human rights groups accuse incumbent Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who also holds the rotating presidency of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is due in Abidjan on Monday to negotiate Gbagbo's departure. ECOWAS threatened to use military force to remove Gbagbo if he doesn't leave freely, but failed to persuade him to go into exile when its first delegation came to Ivory Coast on Monday.
The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. The UN declared Alassane  Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country's electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.
The European Union said late Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife. Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face US travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.
West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but are giving negotiations more time for now. For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.