ICC to probe mass killings in Côte d'Ivoire

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, plans to launch a formal probe into alleged mass killings in Côte d’Ivoire, a statement said on Wednesday.

The statement, headed “Widespread or systematic killings in Côte d’Ivoire may trigger ... investigation”, said Moreno-Ocampo’s office was particularly concerned about reported massacres in the west of the war-torn country.

“The office continues to collect information on alleged crimes committed there by different parties to the conflict,” it said.

Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue last week, with forces loyal to rivals Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara blaming each other.

The next step will be for the prosecutor to use his independent power to request authorisation from the court to initiate an investigation, the statement added.

It noted that while Côte d’Ivoire did not sign the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, both Gbagbo, whose refusal to step down after presidential elections triggered the current wave of fighting, and Ouattara—recognised internationally as his successor—had accepted the court’s jurisdiction.

However, if a state party of the Rome Statute refers Côte d’Ivoire to the ICC prosecutor “he can proceed faster with an investigation and start to prepare a request for an arrest warrant for those most responsible for crimes in Côte d’Ivoire”, it said.

‘Discussions continue’
Meanwhile, Côte d’Ivoire strongman Gbagbo is still in contact with international representatives about a possible surrender, even though his residence is under attack, a United Nations spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“Discussions continue with the UN using its good offices to the fullest extent possible,” UN peacekeeping department spokesperson Nick Birnback told Agence France-Presse.

A French government source said earlier that negotiations with Gbagbo over him giving up had failed. Forces loyal to Ouattara have launched an offensive on Gbagbo’s residence in Abidjan.

The UN said on Tuesday that three of Gbagbo’s senior generals had asked for talks on a ceasefire and conditions for the incumbent leader to give himself up.

Diplomatic sources said various contacts with Gbagbo’s representatives were held during the day but that the rogue leader’s camp did not follow up on the offers made.

They warned that if heavy weapons are used in the Abidjan conflict then UN attack helicopters could be called into action again. UN and French helicopters attacked Gbagbo’s rocket launchers in Abidjan on Monday, setting up what many see as the final battle for control.—AFP

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