, THE HAGUE, Dec – Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo made his first appearance on Monday before judges at the International Criminal Court where he blamed the French military for his arrest for crimes against humanity.
During the former president’s brief hearing before The Hague-based court, judges decided he must reappear on June 18 for a confirmation of charges hearing when he will learn whether he must stand trial.
Gbagbo, the first ex-president to be brought before the court, faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, over an outbreak of post-election violence that the UN says killed some 3,000 people.
Judges verified his identity, and the court read the alleged crimes and his rights under the court’s founding document, the Rome Statute.
In an address before the court, Gbagbo said that his arrest by followers of his Ivorian rival, Alassane Ouattara, in April of this year was the direct result of a French bombing campaign. Ivory Coast is a former French colony.
“Good afternoon madame president, thank you for letting me speak. I am Laurent Gbagbo,” said the ex-president, dressed in a sombre dark suit, white shirt and black tie.
“I was arrested under French bombs,” added the 66-year-old. “The French army did the job.”
Judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi then set June 18 next year as the date to confirm charges against Gbagbo for crimes committed by his troops after he refused to accept defeat in a November 28, 2010 presidential run-off.
Gbagbo spent a decade at the helm of Ivory Coast, the world’s number one cocoa exporter.
At that next hearing prosecutors must convince the court’s judges they have enough evidence to take him to trial.
The charges relate to violence allegedly committed by forces loyal to Gbagbo between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.
The court issued a sealed arrest warrant against him on November 23 for his part in the unrest which erupted after official results proclaimed the victory of Alassane Ouattara, now the president.
Gbagbo was transferred to The Hague from his northern Ivorian jail cell on Wednesday.