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Côte d’Ivoire: 20 released after UN intervenes

20 detainees released in Côte d’Ivoire after UN human rights officers intervene

Twenty people arrested by the Forces Nouvelles armed opposition in Côte d’Ivoire, on charges of spying or being disloyal to the movement, have been released after human rights officers from the United Nations mission in the West African country met the military leader of the Force, UN officials said today.

The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said that the detainees had been held in the northern towns of Korhogo and Ouangolodougou and that some of those arrested had been in jail since November, while others had been detained more recently.

“Following discussions between UNOCI Human Rights Officers and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Forces Nouvelles (FAFN), General Soumaila Bakayoko, on human rights issues and concerns on 21 February, the FN yesterday released 20 elements from its ranks,” UNOCI said, referring to the detainees.

UNOCI troops and military observers in the troubled country also described the current situation in Côte d’Ivoire as “calm”, reporting “no anomalies” in recent arms inspections that they had carried out.

Yesterday, the Security Council urged Ivorian officials to help humanitarian groups return to the West African nation following political unrest in January that prompted many to leave.

The disturbances took place in the capital of Abidjan as well as Daloa, San Pedro, Guiglo and other parts of the country after a UN-authorized group recommended the effective disbanding of the National Assembly, whose mandate had expired.

Earlier this month, Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent the Government of President Laurent Gbagbo a bill for damage to UN offices that occurred during the several days of unrest.

Côte d’Ivoire was divided into a Government-ruled south and rebel-held north after the failure of an attempted coup against President Gbagbo in September 2002 triggered a civil war. UNOCI troops and the UN-authorized French Licorne forces have been guarding the so-called Zone of Confidence separating the two areas in this nation, one of the world’s top cocoa producers.

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