By: Anne Bingert
The International Criminal Court (ICC) made its sixth arrest last week, arresting the former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo. Mr. Gbagbo is the first former head of state brought before the ICC.
Mr. Gbagdo appeared for his first hearing in front of the Court on Monday. During the hearing, Mr. Gbagdo accused his captors of lying to him. Mr. Gbagbo, who has been under house arrest for the past seven months in the town of Korogho, stated he thought he was being taken to a hearing on embezzlement charges in a local court when he was served an ICC arrest warrant. Gbagdo was taken into custody and flown overnight to The Hague.
In a statement in the New York Times, the ICC has said Mr. Gbagbo “allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility for four crimes against humanity: murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts.” Specifically, Gbagbo is accused of being responsible for the violence that erupted after he lost the presidential election earlier this year. Refusing to leave office, Mr. Gbagbo used security forces to suppress opposition supporters resulting in the death of at least 3,000 people. He was captured by opposition forces, backed by the French and United Nations, in April.
Mr. Gbagbo was not the only one surprised by his sudden arrest and transfer to The Hague. Across the Ivory Coast, supporters reacted with shock. Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers have called the arrest illegal and intend to challenge the proceedings. Habiba Toure, one of Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers has called the arrest warrant illegal; “In principle, an arrest warrant is delivered to a free individual or a person on the run, which was not the case for Mr. Gbagbo because he was already in the hands of Ivory Coast officials.” Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters also criticized the French for their role in the arrest, stating that this is a “neocolonialist trial” and the ICC a tool of the French to “empower friends and punish the ones who don’t follow along.”
ICC prosecutors have until June before they will submit a summary of evidence to the judges who will then decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. There will be several smaller hearings in the meantime during which Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers can challenge his arrest and move for his release.