Former Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) two week ago. He faces charges for crimes against humanity related to murder, sexual violence, persecution and other forms of violence. He’s the first former head of state to appear before the ICC.
Violence broke out after Gbagbo refused to give up power after he lost an election in late 2010. Gbagbo is charged as an “indirect perpetrator” in the violence against supporters of Ouattara, who eventually came to power. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC Chief Prosecutor, emphasised that both sides of the conflict had committed crimes in the post-election chaos. He emphasised that his investigation was on going.
To enable the arrests of war criminals, the ICC often uses “sealed warrants.” That means that very few people know about the arrest until they happen. Several court officials told me that they didn’t know about it until they saw it on the news. (Gbagbo’s lawyer challenged the legitimacy of Gbagbo’s detention on the basis that the former President was arrested while being held under house arrest in Côte d’Ivoire. And I think Gbagbo complained he did not know he was being sent to the Hague while he was in transit.)
This photo essay in the Atlantic Monthly tells some of the story of the violence in Côte d’Ivoire which will be at the center of the trial against Gbabo. (In some cases the magazine has hidden violence images with a warning. But still, they are all difficult images are difficult to see.).
There was a quite large, peaceful protest against Gbagbo’s arrest this Saturday outside the Court, which is based in a rather sleepy part of The Hague. West Africans travelled from France and Belgium to voice their disapproval of the proceedings against Gbabo. Some claim that the French (and possibly Belgian) government(s) support Gbagbo’s opponent Ouattara. (Perhaps Saturday wasn’t a great day for the protest. I asked a few of my contacts at the court what they thought about the protest but they hadn’t heard about it at all). And today there were elections in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo’s party pulled out in protest.
Tomorrow there is a pre-trial conference for Gbagbo at the ICC. I will try to get a seat…