Gbagbo may not bury his mom

2014-10-29 21:10
Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo. (AFP)

Former Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo. (AFP)

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The Hague - The International Criminal Court on Wednesday turned down a request by former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo to attend his mother's funeral, saying it would put himself and the west African nation at risk.

"The Chamber cannot justify granting the relief sought when doing so runs such a risk of endangering the populace in the Ivory Coast, court staff and Mr Gbagbo himself," The Hague-based court's judges said.

The former leader's elderly mother died in a remote village in the Ivory Coast in mid-October and last week his lawyers asked the ICC to allow him to travel home in order to make funeral arrangements and attend the burial ceremony.

Gbagbo's lawyers said the ex-president would adhere to a stringent list of conditions and guarantees if allowed to go.

They also referred to the case of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was allowed to attend his father's funeral in Brussels in 2009.

Prosecutors opposed the request, saying his travel destination "is the very country where Mr Gbagbo is alleged to have committed the crimes."

"Mr Gbagbo's mere presence... would likely increase the risk of public mass gatherings, turmoil and violence in the Ivory Coast," prosecutors said in court documents.

Gbagbo, 69, faces an ICC trial for four counts of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed at the end of his 10-year rule in the troubled west African country, after he refused to accept defeat in an election in November 2010.

Security concerns

He still has a large number of supporters in the southern and western Ivory Coast including in the economic capital Abidjan.

"The Chamber does consider Mr Gbagbo's request to be transferred to the Ivory Coast to organise his mother's funeral to constitute humanitarian circumstances," a three-judge bench said in a court order.

But the judges are "not persuaded in the circumstances that any set of specific conditions can sufficiently mitigate the security and logistical concerns."

Gbagbo's supporters clashed for five months with those of President Alassane Ouattara, who was proclaimed winner of the vote by the electoral commission, at a cost of at least 3 000 lives.

Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 by pro-Ouattara forces with backing from former colonial power France and the United Nations.

He was transferred to The Hague the following November, becoming the first ex-head of state to face prosecution at the ICC.

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