THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The former president of Ivory Coast must stand trial on charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the months he clung to power after losing elections, a panel of judges at the International Criminal Court ruled Thursday.
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is charged with orchestrating violence carried out by his supporters after Ivory Coast's 2010 elections. He denies wrongdoing. Prosecutors say he is responsible for murders, rapes, persecution and inhumane acts against supporters of his political rival — now president — Alassane Ouattara, during five months of violence when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.
A panel of three judges said in a majority ruling there is "substantial grounds to believe" Gbagbo committed the crimes he is charged with. No trial date has been set. After a previous round of arguments in Gbagbo's case they had postponed ruling and asked prosecutors to supply additional evidence, a process that delayed the process by about a year.
Gbagbo was ousted from power in April 2011 and incarcerated in The Hague that November. He will be the first former national leader to face trial at the permanent court for war crimes and atrocities. "The victims in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) are one step closer to discovering the truth behind Gbagbo's role in the crimes against them," said Param-Preet Singh, a legal expert at Human Rights Watch.
"The ICC judges' decision should remind senior officials who seem untouchable that the reach of the law may one day extend to them." If convicted, Gbagbo could face a life sentence.