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ICC to try I.Coast’s Gbagbo for crimes against humanity

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– ‘Sustained and deadly’ –

The prosecution says Gbagbo masterminded a plan to “stay in power by all means… through carefully planned, sustained and deadly attacks” against Ouattara supporters.

Between November 28, 2010 and May 8, 2011 Gbagbo’s forces killed between 706 and 1,059 people and raped more than 35 women, prosecutors say.

The evidence relates to four main incidents: the brutal crushing of an opposition march on Ivorian state television in commercial capital Abidjan in December 2010; the putting down of a women’s march in Abobo, Abidjan; an attack on a market in the same neighbourhood; and reprisals carried out by Gbagbo supporters in Yopougon, also in Abidjan, between April and May 2011.

Dissenting judge Christine Van den Wyngaert said however that the evidence against Gbagbo was “still insufficient”.

There was no convincing evidence that Gbagbo had an “inner circle” that agreed to commit crimes against civilians, she said, noting also that Gbagbo faced an armed uprising from rebels, allied with Ouattara, which could justify sending the military into civilian areas.

Gbagbo’s speeches were not necessarily an effort to induce supporters to commit crimes, and money for alleged weapons purchases could also have been justified because Gbagbo faced a revolt, the dissenting judge said.

Gbagbo’s lawyer, Emmanuel Altit, welcomed the decision, saying his client wanted “the truth to be known”, including about a murky system of French political intervention in Africa put in place in the 1960s to maintain power and influence in former colonies known as “Francafrique”.

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“This will be a trial of Francafrique, of manipulation, of deals, of those who wanted a war to serve certain interests,” Altit told AFP.

Human Rights Watch said the ICC’s decision “should remind those in positions of power that they are not immune from justice”.

Gbagbo’s right-hand man Charles Ble Goude, leader of the fanatical “Young Patriots”, is also detained by the ICC, while the Ivory Coast authorities have refused to hand over Gbagbo’s wife, Simone, despite an ICC arrest warrant.

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

Government spokesman Bruno Kone expressed confidence that the court decision “will bring back peace for everybody”.

And the spokesman for Ouattara’s party, Joel N’Guessan, said: “Gbagbo knows very well that many atrocities were committed in Ivory Coast under his responsibility.

“It is absolutely normal that he is being brought to justice.”

“Finally an international court recognises our existence,” added a representative of the victims, Issiaka Diaby.

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