An Examining Magistrate in Côte d'Ivoire yesterday November 13 began questioning Simone Gbagbo, former First Lady and wife of ex-Ivorian leader, Laurent Gbagbo, on charges of genocide and corruption. Also to be heard is Admiral Vagba Faussignaux, ex-Commander of the Ivorian Navy.
RFI radio reported that the interrogation followed that of over 20 aides of the former President that began on May 31. Reports said Judge Koné Mamadou and Barrister Rodrigue Dadjé, one of the lawyers of Simone Gbagbo, were already in Odienné in the north-western part of the country since Monday November 12 where the questioning is being held. Mrs. Gbagbo is one of eight people already charged with genocide. Last February, she was informed that the count of genocide had also been added to others such as blood crimes, threat to State security and economic crimes.
According to a judicial source, the questioning of Simone Gbagbo and two other former aides of her husband marks the last phase in the judicial process before the opening of their trials expected in the coming days. Some observers say the beginning of the trials could help reduce tension in the country between supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and the authorities. The government of President Alassane Ouattara has been accused of selective justice, with only supporters of Gbagbo being investigated. Most of the accused have been in custody for over a year and half.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, recently ruled that Gbagbo is fit to stand trial. He faces four charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and other sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts. They were allegedly committed in the wake of post-electoral violence in Côte d'Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011. Some 3,000 people were killed in violence resulting from disputed election results. The 67-year-old former leader has denied responsibility for the violence.
The court ruled that some practical adjustments could be made in order to enable Laurent Gbagbo to participate in the hearing, including shorter court sessions and facilities for him to rest during breaks. In a statement, the ICC said the judges would soon set a date for hearing and confirming charges.