/ 3 June 2012

Prosecutor: Gbagbo to blame for worst post-poll violence

Laurent Gbagbo.
Laurent Gbagbo.

“The most hideous crimes committed after the election were committed, to the prosecutor’s point of view, by Mr Gbagbo’s troops,” Luis Moreno-Ocampo told a news conference in Abidjan.

“I think that is very important that people follow the discussion in the court … to understand in detail what happened in Côte d’Ivoire.”

He said allegations against forces who fought Gbagbo would also be investigated. Moreno-Ocampo arrived in Abidjan on Friday and met President Alassane Ouattara the same day.

On Saturday, he met representatives of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front party. Captured in April 2011, Gbagbo has been in custody in The Hague since November of that year on allegations of crimes against humanity.

Violence broke out in Côte d’Ivoire after November 2010 polls led to the death of an estimated 3 000 people.

The post-vote violence was triggered when Gbagbo, now 66, refused to step down in favour of his long-time rival Ouattara, who was declared the winner of the election.

The ICC has said it was particularly concerned about reported massacres in the west of the war-torn country. Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue, with forces loyal to rivals Gbagbo and Ouattara blaming each other.

Human Rights Watch has said that forces loyal to Ouattara killed or raped hundreds of people and burned villages during a rampage.

A hearing to consider the charges against Gbagbo is due to start on June 18 and should enable the ICC judges to consider if the evidence produced by the prosecution is sufficiently strong to merit a trial.

But Gbagbo’s lawyers have argued in a 79-page document submitted to the court that Gbagbo was tortured and suffered other rights violations while being held in Côte d’Ivoire and that he will not get a fair trial.

Five months of unrest followed the 2010 polls in the world’s largest cocoa producer, before Gbagbo was arrested at his heavily fortified home in April last year by forces loyal to Ouattara, with UN and French military backing.

Gbagbo, who blames France for orchestrating his imprisonment, was taken to north Côte d’Ivoire and kept under house arrest.

He was transferred to the ICC’s detention unit in The Hague on November 30 last year and is currently facing four counts of crimes against humanity.

He is the first former head of state to be in ICC custody. Demonstrations of support for Gbagbo are regularly organised outside the ICC detention centre in the Scheveningen suburb of The Hague.

The ICC, founded in 2002, is an international criminal tribunal created to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. – AFP