Ivorian leader says Gbagbo will face charges

Former president to face charges while Ouattara pledges to ask ICC to probe alleged massacres committed during crisis.

    After months of turmoil, Ouattara's forces captured Gbagbo and the former leader could now face charges [Reuters]

    Ivory Coast's president-elect has said that Laurent Gbagbo, the country's captured former leader, will face criminal charges at both national and international levels.

    Alassane Ouattara, recognised internationally as the winner of last year's presidential election, said on Wednesday that he would ask the International Criminal Court to investigate reported mass killings carried out in the west of the country amid the political crisis.

    Implicated in the killings are forces loyal to Gbagbo, but also forces loyal to Ouattara.

    "I will speak shortly with the ICC's chief prosecutor [Luis Moreno-Ocampo] so the court can begin investigations," Ouattara said. "These massacres are unacceptable ... I am revolted."

    Ouattara also said that the country's justice minister was preparing for a possible prosecution of Gbagbo, but gave no details.

    Ivory Coast was plunged into crisis when Gbagbo refused to leave the presidency, despite losing last November's presidential runoff to Ouattara.


    After months of turmoil, Ouattara's forces, assisted by French troops, stormed a bunker in Abidjan where Gbagbo was hiding and arrested him.

    He is currently under detention along with his wife, but has been moved to a secure location away from Ouattara's base in Golf Hotel in Abidjan.

    With Gbagbo captured and the five-month power struggle potentially at an end, Ouattara's priority is to establish a secure environment and restart basic services.

    "We are still in a delicate situation. We still need to secure the country, especially Abidjan," Ouattara said.

    Reprisal fears

    Amnesty International has warned that supporters of Gbagbo, even those who are suspected of supporting him, are at risk of violent reprisals from group's backing Ouattara.

    The battle for Abidjan

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    The London-based human rights group said in a statement that despite a call by Ouattara for Ivorians to "abstain from all forms of reprisals and violence", Gbagbo's supporters were being hunted by armed men in Abidjan, the commercial capital.

    It said men in military uniforms have been conducting house-to-house searches in neighbourhoods for Gbagbo supporters in places like Yopougon and Koumassi.

    Amnesty quoted a witness who saw a policeman belonging to Gbagbo's ethnic group being taken from his house on Tuesday morning and shot dead at point blank range.

    "Dozens of young people are going into hiding in Abidjan out of fear for their lives," said Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International's deputy director for Africa.

    "In the western part of the country people suspected of being pro-Gbagbo are also terrified. Many are hiding in the bush after their villages were burned down and they need to be protected."

    Amnesty also said that the village of Zikisso, 300km west of Abidjan, had been attacked several times, including last Sunday, by armed forces allegedly loyal to Ouattara.

    The village chief, Gnagbo Matthias, was abducted by these forces on Monday and is reportedly being held in the town of Lakota.

    UN investigation

    The United Nations, which has peacekeepings troops in Ivory Coast and oversaw the elections in November, has appointed a team of human rights experts to investigate alleged rights abuses.

    The UN Human Rights Council said on Tuesday that the team would be led by Vitit Muntabhorn, a Thai law professor who previously served as the special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea.

    A continent's discontent

    The world body has reportedly uncovered 536 bodies in the west of Ivory Coast since the end of March and it is believed that a further 400 people died as a result of fighting in Abidjan, even before the most recent fighting there.

    Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said last week that the shelling of a marketplace in Abidjan's Abobo district and the murder of women peacefully protesting, as well as numerous other killings and abductions, may amount to crimes against humanity.

    The investigation is to cover the period since the November 28 election date.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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