I.Coast's Ouattara sets up inquiry into war crimes

ABIDJAN Wed Jul 20, 2011 5:55pm EDT

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ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara signed a decree on Wednesday establishing a commission of inquiry into crimes committed during the country's violent post-election turmoil, giving it six months to reach conclusions.

A statement from a council of ministers meeting in the capital Yamoussoukro said the commission would "help understand how and why people were able to conceive, plan and execute such grave violations of human rights."

A presidential election in November last year plunged the West African nation into violence when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept his loss and used a medley of soldiers, youth militias and mercenaries to crush dissent.

The power struggle between Gbagbo and Ouattara rekindled a civil war that the election was supposed to resolve, killing 3,000 people and displacing more than a million until Gbagbo was captured by French-backed pro-Ouattara forces in April.

Ouattara has promised a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission to put the country's crisis behind it, but he also wants to try Gbagbo and his top aides -- currently detained in the north -- for war crimes. The aims may conflict.

The International Criminal Court has been carrying out preliminary research and may soon order an investigation into the most grave crimes committed during the crisis.

"As a duty to memory, Ivory Coast intends to provide the means to establish the truth of the facts in order, if necessary, take legal action against the perpetrators," the statement said.

"The Commission will make recommendations to the President on how to prevent a repeat of this drama ... (It) has six months from the date of signing of the decree to communicate the results of its investigations."

Gbagbo's supporters complain that not a single member of Ouattara's camp has been arrested for alleged crimes, despite evidence of abuses by the former rebel troops.

(Reporting by Tim Cocks)

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