/ 3 May 2011

Prosecutor to move ahead on Côte d’Ivoire probe

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that he plans to ask judges “very soon” to open an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire following last November’s presidential election.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in an interview on Monday that prosecutors “have enough information” to request a formal investigation.

“We are preparing an application to request to the judges to open [an] investigation,” he said. “So we move very soon to the judges requesting authorisation.”

Former president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara after losing the election plunged the country into violence that forced more than one million people to flee. The death toll is still not known: the UN documented about 500 deaths, but human rights groups say thousands were killed. Gbagbo was detained by pro-Ouattara forces on April 11.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office has been in discussions with Ouattara’s government about whether it could launch an investigation on its own.

“They are telling me that they cannot conduct an investigation themselves, so … they agree that I should do it,” if authorised by the ICC, he said.

The UN Human Rights Council has already appointed a three-member panel to investigate the violence in Côte d’Ivoire.

Moreno-Ocampo said his office will probably wait for that investigation to be completed before launching its own probe, if given a green light.

Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa producer, has been in turmoil for almost a decade.

It was split into a rebel-controlled north and government-controlled south after an attempted coup sparked a civil war in 2002. A peace deal in March 2007 brought key rebel leaders into the administration and offered hope for a single government after years of foundering accords and disarmament plans. But the results of the November 29 presidential election made clear that deep divisions remain. – Sapa-AP