The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo
Photo: Laurent Koudou Gbagbo in Courtroom I of the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands, Monday 5 December 2011. © ICC-CPI/AP Photo/Peter Dejong
Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Côte d'Ivoire, faces four counts of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court [ICC Fact Sheet]. Gbagbo is charged with responsibility as an indirect co-perpetrator for murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts allegedly committed during post-electoral violence in the territory of Côte d'Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.
Gbagbo was detained after a military operation in Abidjan on 11 April 2011. The Court issued an arrest warrant for Gbagbo on 23 November 2011, and on 30 November he was transferred to the Hague. Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be taken into custody at the ICC.
At the time, Côte d'Ivoire was not party to the Rome Statute, the founding statute of the ICC. However the country’s government had accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction in 2003, and reconfirmed this acceptance in 2010 and 2011. On 23 June 2011, the Prosecutor of the ICC requested authorisation to open an investigation into the situation in Cote d’Ivoire. On 3 October, the Pre Trial Chamber granted the request to investigate alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed in Côte d’Ivoire since 28 November 2010, as well as with regard to crimes that may be committed in the future in the context of the same situation. On 22 February 2012 the Chamber extended this authorisation to include crimes allegedly committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010.
Gbagbo was President of Côte d'Ivoire for ten years, from 2000 to 2010. After repeatedly postponing elections, Gbagbo lost his seat to Alassane Ouattara in November 2010 but refused to stand down, while his security forces retained control of the presidential palace, state television station and army barracks [BBC Timeline]. This led to weeks of violence in Abidjan and the west of the country, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 3,000 people.
Pre-trial judges at the ICC found reasonable grounds to believe that pro-Gbagbo forces attacked the civilian population “from 28 November 2010 onwards, targeting civilians who they believed were supporters of the opponent candidate Alassane Outtara.” [ICC Fact Sheet]. According to the allegations, these attacks were widespread and systematic, and targeted against specific ethnic and religious groups. Furthermore, Gbagbo and his inner circle are alleged to have carried out a plan to commit these crimes.
Gbagbo’s initial appearance before the Court took place on 5 December 2011. The confirmation of charges hearing, which was originally due to start on 18 June, has been postponed due to concerns over his health and will now start on 19 February 2013.
While the pro-Ouattara side during post-election violence is also alleged to have committed crimes falling under the scope of the ICC investigation, no public charges have yet been filed by the Prosecution.
In order to apply to participate in proceedings before the ICC, victims need to send an application to the ICC Registry. Until this case, these applications needed to be made on an individual basis. In the context of this case, the Chamber requested that a collective approach to victims’ applications to participation be envisaged. The Single Judge asked the Registry to design a new form to that effect on which the parties were invited to comment. REDRESS requested and was granted the right to present amicus curiae observations on this issue.
On 16 March 2012, REDRESS submitted observations to the ICC on a potentially collective approach to victims’ applications for participation. These observations included an analysis of comparative practice (such as class-action lawsuits in the United States). In addition, REDRESS drew on extensive experience taking up claims on behalf of victims before national and international courts and tribunals, and assisting NGOs that work with victims of conflict, to outline strengths and challenges for victims of mass crimes to participate in court proceedings collectively.
Decision on the "Application by Redress Trust for Leave to Submit Observations to Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court Pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence", 8 March 2012,