Human rights activists are urging the International Criminal Court to quickly arrest other people implicated in post-election violence in Ivory Coast, following the transfer of former president Laurent Gbagbo to the Hague-based tribunal. Mr. Gbagbo is expected to appear before the court on Monday according to his lawyer.
The transfer of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court has been cheered by his foes and by activists like Geraldine Mattioli, international justice specialist at Human Rights Watch.
"This transfer really shows that no one is above the law, and that you can be a head of state [but] you still have to respect the human rights of your populations and you cannot engage in the type of widespread violence we've seen in Cote d'Ivoire - justice will catch up with you," said Mattioli.
Mr. Gbagbo arrived in The Hague early Wednesday after spending seven months under house arrest in the northern Ivorian city of Korogho.
ICC Charges Against Laurent Gbagbo
Former president is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, here are the details:
- Rape, sexual violence
- Inhuman acts - December 16, 2010 - April 12, 2011
- Systematic attacks part of organizational policy
- Carried out plan knowing it would lead to commission of alleged crimes
In a statement, the ICC says he allegedly bears responsibility for four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts that took place after Ivory Coast's disputed elections last year. Prosecutors believe about 3,000 people died in the post-election violence.
The court is also considering a request to investigate other crimes Mr. Gbagbo may have committed between 2002, when the Ivorian civil war broke out, and 2010.
"Those crimes have been documented by NGOs but also by the U.N. human rights inquiry that had been conducted in Cote d'Ivoire," Geraldine Mattioli of Human Rights Watch said."Crimes against humanity for sure - we've seen attacks against civilians that were systematic and widespread and lasted for months and had a very large geographical span."
But a Paris-based lawyer for Gbagbo, Emmanuel Altit, claims the very basis for Mr. Gbagbo's detention - first in Ivory Coast and now in the Hague - is illegal. Altit dismisses the procedure as a farce and claims Mr. Gbagbo's defense was kept in the dark about his transfer to The Hague until the very last minute. He says Mr. Gbagbo considers the charges against him unjust.
In an interview with Reuters, former Gbagbo councilor Toussaint Allain said former colonial power France played an active role in Mr. Gbagbo's transfer to the tribunal for its own political ends.
Mr. Gbagbo joins another former African leader - Liberia's Charles Taylor - in the Hague. Mr. Taylor is awaiting a verdict from another tribunal on war crimes charges. The ICC has also issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Other arrest warrants are also expected in connection with post-election violence in Ivory Coast. Human Rights Watch's Mattioli says it's important they also include suspects in the camp of current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
"We believe this is extremely important for Cote d'Ivoire that we do not move towards victor's justice but really look at the crimes committed by both sides," Mattioli said.
Lawyer Altit says he will be representing Mr. Gbagbo when he makes an appearance before the criminal court, which he says will take place on Monday.