Gbagbo blames France

2011-12-05 22:25

The Hague - Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo made his first appearance on Monday before the International Criminal Court where he blamed the French military for his arrest for crimes against humanity.

Gbagbo, the first ex-president to be brought before The Hague-based tribunal, faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, over post-election violence the UN said left about 3 000 people dead.

The 66-year-old said his arrest by followers of his rival and current president Alassane Ouattara in April was the direct result of a bombing campaign by France, Ivory Coast's former colonial ruler.

"Good afternoon madame president, thank you for letting me speak. I am Laurent Gbagbo," a gaunt looking Gbagbo said, dressed in a sombre dark suit, white shirt and black tie.

"I was arrested under French bombs," said Gbagbo, who was transferred to The Hague from his northern Ivorian jail cell on Wednesday. "It was the French army that did the job."

Judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi said Gbagbo must reappear on June 18 for a confirmation of charges hearing, when he will learn whether he must stand trial for crimes committed by his troops after he refused to accept defeat in a November 2010 presidential run-off.

His transfer to the ICC last week drew a furious reaction from his supporters and set a tense backdrop for the December 11 parliamentary poll that had been billed as a chance to foster reconciliation in the war-weary country.

Gbagbo spent a decade at the helm of Ivory Coast, the world's number one cocoa exporter, but violence erupted after he refused to accept results from the 2010 election proclaiming victory for Ouattara.

The ICC had issued a sealed arrest warrant against him on November 23 for charges relating to violence allegedly committed by forces loyal to Gbagbo between December 16 2010 and April 12 2011.

Enough evidence

At the next hearing prosecutors must convince the judges they have enough evidence to take him to trial over the charges of murder, rape, persecution and other inhuman acts.

When ICC judges authorised an investigation into Gbagbo earlier this year, they said there were "reasonable grounds" to believe his camp hired and armed some 4 500 mercenaries, including fighters from neighbouring Liberia.

According to figures provided by the ICC chief prosecutor's office, between 700 and 1 048 people were killed by pro-Gbagbo forces.

Gbagbo's camp described his transfer to The Hague as a "political kidnapping" and announced it would boycott the December election and pull out of reconciliation efforts.

His advisor Toussaint Alain denounced the case before the ICC.

"The presence of president Laurent Gbagbo in the dock is clearly a judicial error, a swindle, a move to liquidate him politically, socially and physically," Alain said in a statement issued in The Hague.

Gbagbo supporters see the hand of Ouattara, who took office as president in May after his forces arrested Gbagbo with UN and French military backing, in their leader's transfer and have branded him a Western puppet.

But Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo's firebrand youth leader, said the ICC was the ideal stage to confound Ouattara.

Truth will out

"The truth comes out now, with Laurent Gbagbo holding the floor on Monday and for the coming months," he said in an "open letter to all Ivorians and Africans" released on Sunday.

A government spokesperson in Abidjan had hailed the transfer as an opportunity to give the country closure over the bloody episode.

But human rights groups warned last week any prosecution focused only on crimes committed by forces loyal to Gbagbo and not those of Ouattara would lead to an "explosive situation on the ground".

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has promised an "impartial investigation" aimed at three to six people and said after Gbagbo's transfer: "This is just the beginning."

The Hague-based court, founded in 2002, is the first permanent international criminal tribunal to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC's six other cases also relate to crimes committed in Africa.

  • Larry - 2011-12-06 06:40

    The African tradition at work again… still. Blame anyone else, but preferably the West. How long before China will start getting the blame?

  • Angela - 2011-12-06 08:14

    I serious would love to see George Bush at ICC too .

      brian.heunis - 2011-12-06 08:45


  • Derek - 2011-12-06 08:39

    The French Government should be on trial for this blatant overthow of a ligitimate African leader. Colonialism at work all over again, it's disgusting!

  • nadia.chotu - 2011-12-06 08:49

    @Derek. How on earth is he legitimate. He "he refused to accept results from the 2010 election proclaiming victory for Ouattara.".... so no.... he was far from legit!!!!

      Tengere - 2011-12-06 09:04

      The only way ever to get legitimate African elections, is to outsource the election processes to an independent organisation with enough integrity not to be "bought". This however is a pie in the sky. African governments are mostly inherently corrupt, the west are hell bent on neo colonialism and the east are walking away with the mineral bone.

      Ryan - 2011-12-06 09:29

      Im gonna give Derek the benefit of the doubt and assume he is joking

  • Phumezo - 2011-12-06 09:58

    Like the rest of the Western and Eastern countries Africa must not recognise this ICC because it makes mockery out of justice! This court is counter-productive and is used by those with narrow and selfish propagandas to keep Afica in the dark ages! What Ivory Coast needs is an African solution as was proposed by Mbeki of a power sharing government! Constitutionally Alassane Ouattara did not have the overwhelming majority and support as required from the election polls. He was propelled to the presidency by France through a back door and imposed on the people of Ivory Coast! We all know that the truth hurts but at some tage it needs to be told! I won't be suprised to see what back door deals has Alassane Ouattara signed to bail out the bankrupt Eurozone with Sarkozy!

  • Andre - 2011-12-06 10:37

    Another dictator seeing his backside. Pitty about the murders commited by him and his sick followers. I salute the Law!

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