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ICC Assesses Health of Ivorian Ex-leader Ahead of Trial

FILE - Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Feb. 19, 2013.

The International Criminal Court is holding a two-day hearing on the health of former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo, whose trial in The Hague has been postponed until January.

Gbagbo and Ivorian militia leader Charles Ble Goude were both supposed to stand trial at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. Instead, the court is holding a closed hearing, as experts testify about Gbagbo’s health.

“The defense of Mr. Gbagbo asked the ICC judges to allow the defense and other parties to put questions to the experts so that is basically what will be happening during the two-day hearing,” explains ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah.

Both Gbagbo and Ble Goude face crimes against humanity charges linked to Ivory Coast’s post-election violence in 2010 and 2011. About 3,000 people were killed after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to election winner Alassane Ouattara.

In the past, Gbagbo’s lawyers have questioned his fitness to stand trial, but spokesman El Abdallah says the possibility of canceling the proceedings - which are now set to open January 28 - is not under discussion.

That will make Gbagbo the first former president to face justice at the ICC. The court also tried unsuccessfully to bring his wife Simone to trial.

“The fact that Gbagbo is in The Hague speaks volumes about the potential for international justice,” said Singh.

Param-Preet Singh is senior counsel for Human Rights Watch’s international justice program. While Gbagbo’s trial is a coup for the court, she says, there is a lingering sense in Ivory Coast that the ICC’s justice has been one-sided.

“There were forces loyal to President Ouattara who also committed crimes and they haven’t yet been pursued by the ICC,” said Singh.

Ouattara, who was reelected last month, has promised to bring perpetrators of the election violence to justice.

ICC spokesman El Abdallah says the court’s prosecutors are continuing to probe allegations against both sides. The court will take action, he said, once there’s sufficient evidence to merit doing so.