Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is before the International Criminal Court in The Hague where he will learn whether there is enough evidence to prosecute him for war crimes.
Gbagbo, 67, is the first former head of state to appear at the court and has been charged with murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts, in connection with widespread violence following Ivory Coast’s 2007 presidential election. An estimated 3,000 people died after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat in the national poll, despite President Alassane Ouattara’s international recognition as winner.
“What should have been a moment of national unity, the first presidential elections in 10 years in Côte d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast], descended into chaos and unspeakable violence,” ICC lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in her opening remarks at the hearing. “Mr. Gbagbo is responsible for the killings of at least 166 persons, the rapes of at least 34 women and girls, the infliction of serious bodily injury and suffering on at least 94 persons and for committing the crime of persecution against at least 294 victims.”
Gbagbo has accused France of using the post-election confusion to remove him from the seat of power of the world’s largest producer of cocoa.
While prosecutors recounted Gbagbo's alleged crimes, his defense argued that Gbagbo’s case is “inadmissible,” given that the former leader should be tried in his own country, where he is already under investigation.
Outside the court, reports say a group of nearly 300 Gbagbo supporters rallied for his release.
In November, the court verified that Gbagbo is fit to stand trial despite mental health concerns after doctors reported the ex- leader displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Michael Kooren, Pool)