Ex Ivory Coast Leader Gbagbo Charged At ICC


thumb geneva; font-size: small; mso-bidi-font-family: ‘Times New Roman’;”>The crimes were allegedly committed as his backers fought brutal battles to keep him in power last year.

Gbagbo, 66, is the first former head of state taken into custody by the court since it was established in 2002, although prosecutors also have charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with genocide and Libya’s former leader, the late Moammar Gadhafi, with crimes against humanity.

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“Mr. Gbagbo is brought to account for his individual responsibility in the attacks against civilians committed by forces acting on his behalf,” Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. “He is presumed innocent until proven guilty and will be given full rights and the opportunity to defend himself.”

Moreno-Ocampo stressed that both sides of the political divide in Ivory Coast committed crimes in the post-election chaos and that his investigation was continuing, Huffington Post reports.

That statement appeared aimed at countering fears that Gbagbo’s arrest could further stoke tension in Ivory Coast because it gives the appearance of victor’s justice. Grave abuses were also committed by forces loyal to the country’s democratically elected leader, Alassane Ouattara, who enlisted the help of a former rebel group to force Gbagbo from office.

“We will collect evidence impartially and independently, and bring further cases before the judges, irrespective of political affiliation,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “Leaders must understand that violence is no longer an option to retain or gain power. The time of impunity for these crimes is over.”

A convoy of cars whisked Gbagbo to the court’s detention unit close to the North Sea, following an overnight flight that touched down in the Netherlands shortly before 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) Wednesday.

He is the sixth suspect taken into custody by the court, which has launched seven investigations, all of them in Africa. A further 11 suspects remain at large and the court has no police force to arrest them.

According to court papers, Gbagbo is charged as an “indirect perpetrator” in a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence against civilians perceived as supporters of Ouattara.

“Allegedly, the attacks were committed pursuant to an organizational policy and were also widespread and systematic as they were committed over an extended time period, over large geographic areas, and following a similar general pattern,” the court said in a statement.

Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after last year’s election.

Rights groups welcomed Gbagbo’s extradition.

“The arrest and surrender of President Laurent Gbagbo to the ICC marks the first significant step toward addressing impunity for crimes against humanity and war crimes” in Ivory Coast, said Jonathan O’Donohue of Amnesty International.

But O’Donohue also urged investigation of both sides by the court.

“Amnesty International has documented crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearances, torture and crimes of sexual violence by all sides,” he said.

The United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented how forces loyal to Ouattara torched villages that voted for Gbagbo, and executed those that could not run away, including the elderly and the disabled, by rolling them inside mattresses and then setting them on fire.

Gbagbo “is not the only one responsible (for the human rights abuses committed during the post election period),” said 30-year-old Kossonou Agingra in Ivory Coast. “There were partisans of Alassane (Ouattara) who killed – and partisans of Gbagbo who killed.”

Gbagbo is expected to spend Wednesday settling in to his new cell in the court’s seaside detention unit and will likely appear before judges later this week.

He will share a cell block with former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is waiting for a verdict in his trial at an ad hoc tribunal on charges of orchestrating atrocities in Sierra Leone.

Taylor and the late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was put on trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, are the only two heads of state to have faced justice at an international court.

Gbagbo, a history professor, came to power in a flawed election in 2000. He then failed to hold elections when his first five-year term expired in 2005, and rescheduled the vote a half-dozen times before it finally went ahead in November 2010.

As soon as it became clear that Ouattara was leading in the polls, Gbagbo’s presidential guard surrounded the election commission, preventing the results from being announced.

Killings began as soon as the United Nations declared Ouattara the winner, and for the next four months morgues overflowed as the military under Gbagbo’s control executed opponents, gunned down protesters and shelled neighborhoods.

The turning point came in March 2011 when thousands of unarmed women led a demonstration demanding Gbagbo’s departure. Tanks opened fire with 50-caliber bullets and the horrific scene that followed was caught on camera phones, and led to condemnation by governments around the world.

The United Nations helped by French forces began air strikes soon after, clearing the path for Ouattara’s soldiers to enter the city, where they seized Gbagbo inside his bunker on April 11. He was held under house arrest in the country’s north until he was flown out of the country Tuesday night.

“Ivorian victims will see justice for massive crimes,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “Mr. Gbagbo is the first to be brought to account, there is more to come.”

Gbagbo, who was kicked out of power by guns after refusing to step down following an election defeat, arrived today Thursday at ICC.

The ousted leader was flown from Ivory Coast today to face charges of crimes against humanity – murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”.

Gbagbo reportedly committed between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.

The ICC has been investigating unrest after last year’s disputed elections, BCC reports.

The transfer comes just two weeks before legislative elections.

Laurent Gbagbo had been under house arrest in Korhogo in the north of Ivory Coast since April when he was ousted.

He will be the first former head of state to be tried by the ICC since it was set up in 2002.

The ICC opened an investigation last month into killings, rapes and other abuses committed during the four-month conflict in Ivory Coast which began when Mr Gbagbo refused to give up power to Alassane Ouattara in a presidential election last year.

‘Victor’s justice’

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo visited the country in mid-October to investigate the post-election violence.

He said his investigation would be impartial, and that he would focus on up to six people who he said were most to blame for the violence.

A statement read on Ivorian national television signed by the state prosecutor, Simplice Kouadio, said the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Gbagbo last week, which he had received this Tuesday in the presence of his lawyers.

Human rights groups welcomed the arrest warrant, but also cautioned against “victor’s justice”.

“While the Gbagbo camp fuelled the violence, forces on both sides have been repeatedly implicated in grave crimes,” said Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch.

“Victims of abuse meted out by forces loyal to President Ouattara [also] deserve to see justice done,” she said.

In a statement to Reuters, an adviser to Mr Gbagbo, Toussaint Alain, branded the former president’s transfer “victor’s justice”.

But Mr Moreno-Ocampo vowed Mr Gbagbo would not be the last person to be brought to account, saying: “Ivorian victims will see justice for massive crimes: Mr Gbagbo is first to be brought to account, there is more to come.”

‘Economic crimes’

Although Ivory Coast is not one of the member countries covered by the ICC, it has accepted its jurisdiction.

Mr Gbagbo is also being investigated by Ivorian justice officials for “economic crimes”. He has been charged with looting, armed robbery and embezzlement.

Laurent Gbagbo was the president of Ivory Coast for 10 years, during which time the country was virtually partitioned by civil war.

But it is the period since the presidential elections a year ago that the prosecutors of the ICC have been investigating.

Mr Gbagbo refused to give up power when his rival Alassane Ouattara was internationally recognised as the winner of last November’s presidential vote.

About 3,000 people died in the post-election violence provoked by Mr Gbagbo’s decision to cling to power.


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