12 December 2012

Cote d'Ivoire: International Criminal Court Judges Confirm Jurisdiction in Case Against Former Ivorian President

Photo: Fraternité Matin
Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court.

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today unanimously dismissed an argument on its jurisdiction presented by defence lawyers for former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, who is currently facing trial there on charges of crimes against humanity.

The lawyers had questioned Mr. Gbagbo's prosecution by the ICC, arguing that Cote d'Ivoire is not formally a state party to the Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty, according to an ICC news release. However, the court's Appeals Chamber dismissed the appeal and confirmed an earlier decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber I.

In August, the Pre-Trial Chamber had declined to grant Mr Gbagbo's request to find that the Court would lack jurisdiction over the post-2010 election period and events on which the warrant of arrest and the charges laid against him are based.

Côte d'Ivoire was rocked by a post-election crisis in late 2010, when Alassane Ouattara won a disputed presidential run-off election that led to months of deadly violence when Mr. Gbagbo - the runner-up and incumbent - refused to step down. He was later captured by security forces and transported to The Hague in the Netherlands to face trial at the ICC.

Mr. Gbagbo allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, allegedly committed during the post-electoral violence in Côte d'Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.

The former president's defence lawyers had alleged that Côte d'Ivoire, while not a State Party to the Rome Statute, had accepted the ICC's jurisdiction in a declaration made on 18 April 2003 only in relation to the events in 2002 and 2003, and not in relation to future crimes.

According to the ICC release, the appeals judges noted that under the terms of the Rome Statute, a State may accept the jurisdiction of the Court generally, and could not find a "temporal limitation" in the 2003 declaration.

The defence lawyers also asked for a stay of proceedings because of alleged violations of Mr. Gbagbo's fundamental rights during his detention in Côte d'Ivoire, prior to his transfer to the ICC. That request was also dismissed by the judges, citing procedural reasons.

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

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