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I. Coast’s firebrand ex-youth leader transferred to ICC

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I. Coast's firebrand ex-youth leader transferred to ICC/AFP

I. Coast’s firebrand ex-youth leader transferred to ICC/AFP

THE HAGUE, Mar 23 – Charles Ble Goude, the former right-hand man of Ivorian ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, was locked up in The Hague early Sunday pending his trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity.

A court spokesman confirmed that the 42-year-old former youth leader was put inside the court’s detention centre, located inside a Dutch prison complex on the outskirts of The Hauge.

Ble Goude faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, allegedly committed during post-electoral violence in the west African country in 2010-2011.

He was on Saturday taken from Abidjan on a plane chartered by the ICC.

The former leader of the “Young Patriots”, once known as Gbagbo’s “Street General”, was joining his former boss in ICC detention.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda hailed the transfer, saying in a statement Saturday: “We are a step closer in helping to unveil the full truth in one of (Ivory Coast’s) worst episodes of mass violence in recent history.”

The crisis in the country once seen as a beacon of stability in the region started with Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat in November 2010 elections, sparking armed clashes that killed more than 3,000 people.

His election rival, Alassane Ouattara, now the president of the world’s top cocoa producer, eventually ousted him thanks to international military backing.

Gbagbo, who was transferred to The Netherlands in late 2011, also faces four counts of crimes against humanity but the court has yet to confirm the charges, pending further investigation.

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Ble Goude galvanised support for Gbagbo during the crisis with fiery speeches urging mass mobilisation against what he called pro-Ouattara “rebels” and their foreign backers, former colonial power France and the United Nations.

Ble Goude “allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts,” the ICC said Saturday.

The ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in December 2011 but did not make it public until late last year, and the Ivorian cabinet agreed to the transfer on Thursday.

The former youth leader for Gbagbo was arrested in Ghana in January 2013 after more than a year and a half on the run and extradited to Ivory Coast.

– ‘Not afraid’ –

The Ivorian authorities were initially hesitant to surrender Ble Goude, citing reasons of “national sovereignty” and saying the country’s justice system had sufficiently recovered from the crisis to be capable of trying him.

They used the same arguments in declining to transfer Gbagbo’s wife Simone to The Hague.

The leader of Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivoirien party, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, regretted the decision to transfer Ble Goude, arguing that it would not ease tensions.

“This does not show that the country is advancing on the path of normalisation, of some kind of way out of conflict,” he said.

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