Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Gbagbo faces crimes against humanity trial


Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo will appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday to face charges of crimes against humanity including murder and rape, officials said.

Gbagbo, 66, was flown from Ivory Coast to the Netherlands on Wednesday and transferred to a detention center in The Hague, making him the first former head of state to be tried by the global court since its inception in 2002.

About 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced in a four-month civil war in Ivory Coast after Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara in an election he lost last year.

At his first appearance before the court the judges would verify his identity and ensure he was properly informed of the charges against him, an ICC statement said.

Some officials in Ivory Coast feared a reaction from Gbagbo’s supporters when he was detained, but the streets were quiet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s leafy, commercial capital on the edge of a lagoon.

As leader of Ivory Coast, Gbagbo was adept at mobilizing sometimes violent mobs several thousand strong.

Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party called on supporters to “regroup for imminent action” in a statement.

“Gbagbo’s transfer to The Hague gives us all the reason we need to stand up. The day will come,” Charles Ble Goude, exiled Gbagbo youth militia leader, told pro-Gbagbo daily Notre Voie.

His trial is likely to prove divisive and there is still a chance of protests when he goes into court on Monday. However, for the time being Ivorians seem reluctant to reignite violence.

Some human rights groups asked why fighters for Ouattara had not also been arrested, despite evidence they too committed abuses.

“In all of our reports we made it clear there were violations of human rights on both sides,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told a news conference in Geneva.

“President Ouattara has consistently expressed his commitment to fight against impunity in a fair and balanced way by going after all the perpetrators, regardless of their status or political affiliation. So this is something we would be encouraging him to do,” she said.

In a press conference in Abidjan on Thursday, Ivorian public prosecutor Simplice Kouadio Koffi said none in the Ouattara camp had yet been arrested because, with all the fighting and chaos in the latter weeks of the conflict, it would take time to gather information and build a case.

“There were more than 3,000 deaths and more than 8,000 victims in this post-electoral crisis, so we decided to listen to all the victims first before opening a case for blood crimes and pursue everyone involved in them,” he said.

Gbagbo, his wife, and several of his top aides also being held have been charged with attacking the security of the state and economic crimes, such as looting the central bank.

Koffi said those cases against them would be pursued alongside the ICC investigation.

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