Child rape rife in Ivory Coast


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The Independent Online

More than 1,000 women and children had their human rights seriously violated in Ivory Coast in the last year, charities warned today.

A report by Unicef and Save the Children found that 182 children have been raped since the country, also known as Cote d'Ivoire, descended into crisis after its defeated president refused to leave office following elections last November.

It said a child was raped every 36 hours in the country.

The report listed 1,121 human rights violations against women and children between November last year and September.

Of these, 643 children had their rights violated. Two-thirds of child victims were girls and 60% were aged under 15.

The report found 213 cases of sexual violence and 79 instances of children being maimed or injured.

It also numbered 41 cases of children being killed, including by firearms and grenades, and 10 cases of abduction or kidnapping.

In 45 instances, children were "associated with armed groups", including being seen at checkpoints with weapons or in uniform.

Only 52 of the cases of human rights violations were being prosecuted, even though more than half of the victims knew the perpetrator.

The number of incidents rose significantly in March and April this year, at the height of the political crisis.

The west African state was thrown into turmoil last December when its constitutional court overturned last November's election result and said that the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, should continue in post.

The United Nations (UN) had previously accepted as credible the Independent Electoral Commission's ruling that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had been victorious.

The row sparked months of violence with widespread fighting before Mr Gbagbo was forced from office in April, with the support of UN and French forces.

The election had been intended to restore stability in the country after a long-running civil war which began with a 2002 coup attempt against Mr Gbagbo.

Xavier Simon, director of Save the Children in the country, said: "The suffering of children in the Cote d'Ivoire crisis has been overlooked until now.

"Many are scared to denounce the perpetrators of these crimes, and those who step forward should be supported.

"We will continue to assist the victims and monitor the institutions that are responsible for safeguarding the rights of Ivorian children."