The Moment (London)

Cote d'Ivoire: War Crimes Judges Set to Probe Atrocities

WAR crimes court judges yesterday gave prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the green light to probe atrocities committed by opposing forces in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast's disputed polls last year.

Judges, said Luis Moreno-Ocampo, could investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by forces loyal to both the new Ivorien President, Alassane Ouattara and former leader, Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to give up power.

'There is a reasonable basis to believe that in the aftermath of presidential elections, attacks were committed by pro-Gbagbo loyalists against the civilian population in Abidjan and in the west of the country,' a three-judge bench said in its decision, published Monday.

At the same time it believed pro-Ouattara forces also carried out attacks against civilians, 'particularly in the west of the country,' the judges added in its 86-page decision.

Moreno-Ocampo on June 23 asked the court if he could mount an inquiry into widespread violence that followed the November 28 elections, in which more than 3,000 people were killed.

The cocoa-rich country's new President Ouattara was sworn-in on May 6 this year, after a five-month battle with forces loyal to Gbagbo.

Among the charges levelled against Gbagbo's side is that it hired some 4,500 mercenaries, including fighters from neighbouring Liberia and armed them.

Pro-Gbagbo forces also attacked the United Nations' peace-keeping force in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI). Between 700 and 1,048 people were killed by pro-Gbagbo forces, according to figures given by the prosecutor's office.

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