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Ivory Coast to send ex-youth leader to ICC

Ble Goude will be sent to International Criminal Court, where he is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity.

Last updated: 20 Mar 2014 16:20
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Ble Goude was arrested in Ghana more than a year ago and extradited to Ivory Coast [AP]

Ivory Coast will transfer Charles Ble Goude, the jailed right-hand man of former President Laurent Gbagbo, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, an official said.

The decision was made at a cabinet meeting, a source at the presidency told AFP news agency. Gbagbo's former youth leader was arrested in Ghana more than a year ago and extradited to Ivory Coast.

"The cabinet has agreed to send Ble Goude to the International Criminal Court," Justice Minister Gnenema Mamadou Coulibaly told reporters on Thursday. "We are going to study how to quickly execute this decision."

In September last year, The Hague-based ICC unsealed a warrant for the 42-year-old Ble Goude, who faces four counts of crimes against humanity during post-election unrest between 2010 and 2011.

The former leader of the "Young Patriots" will join Gbagbo in ICC detention; the former president was transferred to the Netherlands in late 2011.

Gbagbo also faces four counts of crimes against humanity but the court has yet to confirm the charges, pending further investigation.

The Ivorian crisis started with Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in the November 2010 elections, sparking armed clashes that killed more than 3,000 people.

His election rival Alassane Ouattara, now the president, eventually ousted him with the help of international military backing.

Abidjan's decision to transfer Ble Goude can be seen as surprising given its prior refusal to do so with Gbagbo's wife Simone, also wanted by the ICC, on the grounds that its own judiciary now offered sufficient guarantees of a fair trial.

Gbagbo loyalists are still a force to be reckoned with in Ivorian politics and Ouattara had in recent months tried to foster reconciliation with gestures towards the opposition.

Ble Goude told AFP in an interview when he was still in exile in 2012 that he was not afraid of going to the ICC.

"I am not an advocate of weapons, I never maintained a single militia. If the ICC wants to invite me for having organised protest marches, I have no problem appearing before the ICC," he said.

"I am ready to go before the ICC so that we may finally know in Ivory Coast who did what."

Gbagbo's former youth minister had galvanised support for the veteran leader during the crisis with fiery speeches urging mass mobilisation against what he called pro-Ouattara "rebels" and their foreign backers France and the UN.

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