awfulness in the Ivory Coast

While the international community is busy figuring out what to do next about Libya, atrocities mount in Cote d’Ivoire:

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Saturday saying it had documented abuses, with the vast majority perpetrated by forces loyal to Gbagbo against real or perceived Ouattara supporters, as well as against West African immigrants and Muslims.

“The documented abuses include targeted killings, enforced disappearances, politically motivated rapes, and unlawful use of lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” the statement said. “These abuses, committed over a four-month period by security forces under the control of Gbagbo and militias loyal to him, may rise to the level of crimes against humanity.”

…But the New York-based organization said atrocities committed by pro-Ouattara forces also could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including three detainees burned alive and four whose throats were slit, all in Abidjan.

“Human Rights Watch has also received credible reports of abuses committed when Ouattara’s forces took control of several towns in western [Ivory Coast],” it said.

In one village near Abidjan, the statement said, at least nine civilians were killed “in an apparent case of collective punishment against alleged civilian supporters of Gbagbo.”

It added, “The killing of civilians by pro-Ouattara forces, at times with apparent ethnic or political motivation, also risks becoming a crime against humanity should it become widespread or systematic.”

Here’s an argument in favor of our having consciously taken sides in Libya — we may have saved the rebels from themselves. Very likely if we had not intervened the rebels, had they survived at all, would have been forced into guerrilla/terror tactics, since they would simply not have had the firepower to take Qaddafi’s army head-on. This would have resulted in a decided muddying of the moral waters.

In the Ivory Coast, of course, neither side has a military comparable to Qaddafi’s, and the fighting takes on this vicious, personal character, where villages are slaughtered for having supported one candidate or another.

Of course, what will happen in Libya remains to be seen. It’s not too late for our side to engage in war crimes, if they really, really want to!

UPDATE: France takes the airport in Abidjan in order to secure its own citizens.

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