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OUATTARA TAKES OVER, URGES PEACE IN C' D'IVOIRE, UN RAISES RIGHTS ABUSE PANEL

By NBF News
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COTE D'IVOIRE's President, Alassane Ouattara, has urged his troops not to carry out reprisals on his captured rival Laurent Gbagbo's supporters, as United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned against new bloodshed.

The call came as the UN named the experts who would investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Cote d'Ivoire.

The 47-member rights council, acting at the request of Nigeria on behalf of African countries, agreed last month to launch the investigation.

In a statement obtained by The Guardian yesterday, the UN Human Rights Council said Vitit Muntabhorn, a Thai law professor who previously served as the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea between 2004 and 2010, will lead the commission of inquiry into the former French colony.

The investigation will cover the period since the November 28, 2010 election that Gbagbo lost, according to UN-certified results.

The world body said the commission's mandate was 'to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of serious abuses and violations of human rights committed,' since the election 'in order to identify those responsible for such acts and bring them to justice.'

The other team members are Suliman Baldo, a Sudanese expert, and Reine Alapini Gansou, a criminal law professor from Benin.

UN staff have found 536 bodies to date in the west of the country since the end of March, officials told a briefing in Geneva, and in New York on Monday UN staff said at least 400 had died in the city of Abidjan even before the most recent clashes there.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday said crimes committed such as the shelling of a marketplace in Abidjan's Abobo district and the murder of women peacefully protesting, as well as numerous other killings and abductions may amount to crimes against humanity.

'I ask you to remain calm and show restraint,' Ouattara, the 69-year-old elected leader of the West African nation said in a televised address late Monday, while hailing 'the dawn of a new era of hope.'

He also announced 'legal proceedings against Laurent Gbagbo, his wife and his allies,' adding that 'all measures are being taken' to protect them following their dramatic capture on Monday after a four-month crisis.

Despite Ouattara's call for peace, reports said heavy weapons fire rocked two districts in Abidjan loyal to Gbagbo yesterday.

The weapons were heard in the central Plateau district and in the northern Cocody area as forces loyal to Gbagbo's rival, Ouattara, were seeking to return security to the city after 10 days of fighting.

Ouattara called on all fighters to put down their arms now that the longtime strongman has been captured after his refusal to cede power sparked violence leaving bodies piled at morgues.

More than one million civilians fled their homes and untold numbers were killed in the more than four-month power struggle between the two rivals. The standoff threatened to re-ignite a civil war in the world's largest cocoa producer, once divided in two by a civil war nearly a decade ago.

'After more than four months of post-electoral crisis, marked by so many human lives loss, we are finally at the dawn of a new era of hope,' Ouattara said.

Residents of the commercial capital of Abidjan refrained from celebrating in public, still fearful of the many armed fighters prowling the streets and refusing to believe their leader Laurent Gbagbo had been arrested.

Gbagbo, 65, who had held power since 2000 and stubbornly refused to accept defeat in November's presidential election, also called for a laying down of arms in televised comments shortly after his capture.