ICC 'competent' to try Laurent Gbagbo

2012-08-16 10:32
Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo. (AFP)

Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo. (AFP)

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The Hague - The International Criminal Court ruled Wednesday against a challenge by Ivory Coast ex-president Laurent Gbagbo's lawyers on its jurisdiction to try him for crimes against humanity.

"The chamber finds that the court has the jurisdiction over alleged crimes... including those committed since 28 November 2010 on the basis of [a] declaration of 18 April 2003," by Ivory Coast, the ICC said.

Gbagbo's lawyers in late May challenged the Hague-based court's competence to put the former west African leader on trial for alleged crimes committed after Ivory Coast's disputed polls in November 2010.

The defence asked the court to rule that a declaration signed by Ivory Coast in April 2003 recognising the court's jurisdiction, would "not be relevant to the period covered by the allegations against Mr Gbagbo".

Gbagbo's defence also asked the court to rule that his rights were infringed during the strongman's eight-month detention in Ivory Coast and in the course of his transfer to the ICC, making "a fair trial impossible".

However, the ICC's judges on Wednesday found that the declaration, signed by Gbagbo's then foreign minister Bamba Mamadou, recognised the tribunal's jurisdiction for an indefinite period.

Therefore, the Ivory Coast "accepted the jurisdiction of the court over events from 19 September 2002 onwards," they ruled.

Further, regarding claims that Gbagbo's rights were violated while in detention in Ivory Coast, the court said "the chamber cannot proceed to a determination of any particular violation of Mr Gbagbo's fundamental rights".

Deadly crisis

Former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo obtained the approval from judges on October 3, 2011 to probe crimes committed in the Ivory Coast during the violence that broke out after the 2010 elections.

Post-poll fighting broke out when Gbagbo refused to step down in favour of his long-time rival and current President Alassane Ouattara, declared the election's winner, plunging the country into deadly crisis.

The UN said about 3 000 people died in the violence.

Five months of unrest followed before Gbagbo was eventually arrested after forces loyal to Ouattara stormed his heavily fortified home with French and UN military backing.

Now 67, Gbagbo was to appear Monday before the ICC for a hearing to confirm four charges of crimes against humanity against him for his role in the unrest that wracked the world's largest cocoa producer.

The hearing was postponed however to await a health report from doctors after the defence earlier this month questioned his fitness to come to court.

The first former head of state to be surrendered to the ICC, Gbagbo was imprisoned in The Hague in November after being transferred by plane from northern Ivory Coast, where he had been under house arrest since April 2011.

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