Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast who stands accused of multiple war crimes, is healthy enough to stand trial, judges at the International Criminal Court have ruled.
In a statement released on Friday the judges did say, however, that Gbagbo’s mental health was fragile, and that close monitoring and appropriate treatment were required.
Preparations for Gbagbo’s trial for crimes against humanity including murder, rape and persecution have been on hold since June, when he told judges the ill-treatment he had received at the hands of his captors in Ivory Coast had left him unfit to stand trial.
Judges found Gbagbo, 67, was able to understand the charges against him, which relate to the civil war that followed his refusal to stand down after losing presidential elections in 2010.
Some 3,000 people were killed and more than one million were displaced in four months of fighting.
The trial can only begin once judges have confirmed the charges against Gbagbo and no date has been set yet.
One of the doctors the court consulted found that Gbagbo was “a shadow of his former self”, while another said he tired easily and had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
When he arrived in The Hague last December, Gbagbo said he was ill after having been held in a windowless room.
“The question is not whether Mr Gbagbo is at present in full possession of the higher or better faculties he may have had in the past,” they wrote, “but whether his current capacities are sufficient for him to take part in proceedings against him.”
A third doctor cited in the judges’ ruling said Gbagbo seemed “more concerned with salvaging his image” than with addressing the specifics of the case.
Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be brought before the 10-year-old ICC – the world’s first permanent war crimes court – which earlier this year handed down its first conviction, jailing Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga for 14 years.
The ICC in June appointed three doctors to assess Gbagbo’s health, at the request of his lawyers, who said he was tortured during his detention last year by forces loyal to and current President Alassane Ouattara.
Judges avoided making any detailed assessment of Gbagbo’s health but said that special measures could be taken ahead of and during his trial.
They include “shorter court sessions, the provision of appropriate facilities to rest during breaks, the possibility for the suspect to excuse himself from all or part of the proceedings and to follow them via video link if he so wishes”.
The former president, who first came to power in October 2000, refused to acknowledge an election loss to Ouattara, a decision that plunged the country into its second armed conflict in a decade.
Holed up in the commercial capital Abidjan, Gbagbo was eventually ousted in April 2011, following two weeks of fierce street fighting that is estimated to have cost 3,000 lives in the west African country.
He was then moved to Korhogo in the north of the country, until he was transferred to ICC custody seven months later on the strength of an international arrest warrant.