Former Ivory Coast President Faces Charges at ICC
Gbagbo would be the first former head of state to appear before the ten-year-old court
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was prepared to go to any lengths -- including using lethal force -- to cling to power after losing elections in 2010, and should stand trial for his alleged involvement in post-election violence, the International Criminal Court's prosecutor said Tuesday.
Fatou Bensouda said the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal must mete out justice to Gbagbo for victims of the violence that plunged his country, once a beacon of democracy in West Africa, into bloody chaos.
"We will show that Mr. Gbagbo and forces under his control are responsible for the death, rapes, serious injuries to, and arbitrary detention of, countless law abiding citizens" considered supporters of his rival Alassane Ouattara, Bensouda said.
She was speaking on the opening day of a hearing to judge whether prosecutors' evidence is strong enough to merit putting on trial Gbagbo, 67, the first former head of state to appear before the ten-year-old court.
Bensouda said prosecutors will focus on just four incidents to paint a picture of the violence that erupted after Ouattara was declared the election winner and Gbagbo refused to accept his defeat, declaring himself president and allegedly unleashing his forces and supporters to target his rival's backers.
The four incidents "will show that 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," Bensouda said.
She called them "brutal, revolting acts" that amount to crimes against humanity.
Prosecutors say some 3,000 people died in violence by supporters of both Ouattara and Gbagbo in five months of violence after the election.
The current Ivory Coast government sent Gbagbo to The Hague for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, but his lawyers have urged its judges to rule that they have no authority to put him on trial on charges of murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts.
Lawyer Dov Jacobs told the ICC judges on Tuesday that Gbagbo, a former history professor, is under investigation in Ivory Coast for his role in violence and that authorities in his homeland should be the ones to try him.
Gbagbo, wearing a suit and tie, sat silently in court listening to proceedings through a headset and made no immediate comment. He sometimes waved and smiled to supporters in the public gallery and looked healthy.
Gbagbo, who is charged as an "indirect co-perpetrator" in the violence, insists he is innocent.
He was arrested in Ivory Coast in April 2011 by forces loyal to Ouattara and extradited to The Hague eight months later.
Some 300 supporters demonstrated outside the court Tuesday, chanting "Free Gbagbo!" and insisting that he is their country's rightful ruler and not Ouattara. "The one who lost is controlling the country. That is ridiculous," said Patrice Koute, who traveled from London to The Hague to show his support.
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