UPDATE 1-Countries warn Ivory Coast violence could escalate

* U.S. increases death toll estimate in Ivory Coast

* African countries push issue in 47-member U.N. body
(Adds quotes, details)

By Laura MacInnis and Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – Nearly 200 people have been
killed in Ivory Coast political violence that must be halted and
fully investigated, the United States told the U.N. Human Rights
Council on Thursday.

At a special session in Geneva, requested by African states,
rich and poor countries roundly condemned grave human rights
violations committed since last month’s disputed presidential
election and raised concerns that they could escalate.

“We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have
already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated,
and others have been snatched from their home in the middle of
the night,” U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on
Sunday that more than 50 people had died so far. [ID:nLDE6BI0GF]

Earlier on Thursday, Ivory Coast’s army said it stands
behind presidential incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who is under
international pressure to quit after a Nov. 28 election that
major powers say he lost to rival Alassane Ouattara.

The prime minister of Ouattara’s rival government, Guillaume
Soro, has said the “only solution” to the crisis that risks
rekindling civil war in Ivory Coast was for world leaders to use
force to oust him if other measures fail. [ID:nLDE6BM0LR]

King told the 47 member-state U.N. body, where developing
states often vote as a bloc, that there was widespread agreement
that the insecurity spreading in Abidjan needed to be stopped
before it worsens.

“We stand united in this Council and with the international
community in support of the people of Cote d’Ivoire in their
rightful exercise of democratic processes and condemn all human
rights violations and abuses in Cote d’Ivoire,” King said.

“We call for the immediate end to the violence and the other
abuses and violations, and we will work to ensure that those
responsible for these human rights violations will be held
accountable.”

She also voiced concern that media outlets controlled by
Gbagbo were broadcasting hate speech and inciting violence
against certain ethnic groups and political opponents. U.N.
staff in the country were also being harassed and threatened.

The United States, the United Nations, the European Union,
the African Union and the West African bloc ECOWAS have all
recognised electoral commission results showing Ouattara as the
winner of the election and have called on Gbagbo to step down.

The United States and the European Union have also since
slapped travel sanctions on Gbagbo and his inner circle, and the
World Bank on Wednesday froze funding to the country, to which
it has aid commitments of over $800 million. [ID:nLDE6BL107]

UPDATE 1-Countries warn Ivory Coast violence could escalate