Former Ivory Coast Leader Faces ICC Judges

Posted December 5th, 2011 at 9:50 am (UTC-5)
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Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has made his first appearance before the International Criminal Court, where he faces four charges of crimes against humanity stemming from his role in deadly post-election violence.

Mr. Gbagbo, the first former head of state to be brought to the global court since its inception in 2002, was read his rights during Monday's hearing at The Hague but declined to have judges read out the charges against him.

The former president, wearing a dark suit, stood and answered questions from the court during the 20-minute hearing.

He said it was French troops who arrested him at the presidential residence in Abidjan in April and then handed him over to forces of the current Ivorian president, Alassane Ouattara.

He also said Ivorian authorities held what he called a surprise hearing to authorize his transfer to the Hague last week.

The ICC chages Mr. Gbagbo was an indirect perpetrator of murder, rape and other crimes committed during four months of clashes in Ivory Coast. About 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced after Mr. Gbagbo refused to cede power to Mr. Ouattara, who defeated him in the November 2010 election.

As president, Mr. Gbagbo was able to mobilize sometimes violent mobs several thousand strong. The court says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe pro-Gbagbo forces attacked civilians thought to have supported Mr. Ouattara.

The court has scheduled Mr. Gbagbo's next hearing for June 18, when prosecutors must convince the court's judges they have enough evidence to bring Mr. Gbagbo to trial.

Chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo says investigations into the Ivory Coast violence continue and Mr. Gbagbo is only the first to be brought before the court.

Moreno-Ocampo has said there is evidence that both Ouattara and Gbagbo supporters committed war crimes. Mr. Ouattara, now in power, has created a reconciliation panel aimed at unifying Ivory Coast. He has vowed to hold accountable anyone who committed crimes during the unrest.