Thursday, December 01, 2011

War Crimes: Côte d’Ivoire - "Ivorian victims will see justice for massive crimes"

Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Côte d’Ivoire, arrived at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence that began in the West African nation nearly a year ago.

The 66-year-old was yesterday surrendered to the ICC, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, by Ivorian national authorities. His initial appearance before the pre-trial chamber will be held promptly, the court said in a news release.

Mr. Gbagbo allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, committed in Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.

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

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

In early October the ICC authorized the Prosecutor to probe alleged abuses committed during the bloody unrest in Côte d’Ivoire, which erupted when Mr. Gbagbo refused to step down after he lost the United Nations-certified election to Alassane Ouattara, who was eventually sworn in after Mr. Gbagbo surrendered in April.

According to sources quoted by the prosecution in its application, at least 3,000 people were killed, 72 disappeared and 520 others were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions during the post-election violence.

It was “one of the worst episodes of violence Côte d’Ivoire has ever known, with ordinary Ivorians suffering immensely and crimes allegedly committed by both parties,” said Mr. Moreno-Ocampo.

“We have evidence that the violence did not happen by chance: widespread and systematic attacks against civilians perceived as supporting the other candidate were the result of a deliberate policy.”

The Prosecutor added that investigations are continuing. “Leaders must understand that violence is no longer an option to retain or gain power,” he stated.

“The time of impunity for these crimes is over.”