Côte d'Ivoire: 'Justice has to be done'

The world’s top war-crimes prosecutor said forces loyal to ousted Côte d’Ivoire leader Laurent Gbagbo as well as those backing his rival, Alassane Ouattara, committed war crimes in the post-election violence.

Former president Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara following a November 28 election, triggering months of violence and economic havoc in the world’s top cocoa-producing country before Gbagbo was captured in April in Abidjan.

After lodging a request with International Criminal Court (ICC) judges on Thursday for approval to start an investigation, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said at least 3 000 people were killed and 520 people were arbitrarily detained in the violence.

There were more than 100 reported cases of rape and the number of unreported cases could be much higher, he added.

‘Violence and suffering
Moreno-Ocampo, who will send a team to assess the security situation in Côte d’Ivoire on Monday and to plan for his investigation, said it was not yet clear who was the most responsible for the crimes.

“We have to collect the evidence to define who gave the orders to commit the crimes,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “After all the violence and suffering in Côte d’Ivoire, justice has to be done.”

If authorised to open a probe, this would be Moreno-Ocampo’s seventh formal investigation; all of them are in Africa.

The prosecutor said evidence indicated pro-Gbagbo forces allegedly committed crimes against humanity by killing civilians who challenged his decision to stay in power.

He said once the armed conflict started, both pro-Gbagbo forces and pro-Ouattara forces allegedly committed war crimes.

Although the Côte d’Ivoire is not one of the member countries covered by the ICC, the world’s first permanent war-crimes court, it has accepted the jurisdiction of the court and Ouattara wrote to Moreno-Ocampo in May asking the ICC to investigate reported abuses.—Reuters

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