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ICC indicts former Ivory Coast first lady

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued an arrest warrant for Ivory Coast's former first lady, Simone Gbagbo, on charges of crimes against humanity. It is the first time the court has indicted a woman.

The arrest warrant issued by the ICC alleges that Simone Gbagbo was "criminally responsible for murder, rape, other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane acts, and persecution" during Ivory Coast's post-election conflict last year.

The warrant was issued on February 29, but remained sealed until Thursday.

Simone Gbagbo's husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, is already in The Hague awaiting trial on similar charges. His refusal to accept defeat in an election in late 2010 triggered the conflict between his supporters and backers of current President Alassane Ouattara.

More than 3,000 people died in the fighting.

'Alter ego'

The ICC warrant accuses Simone Gbagbo of helping plan and orchestrate the violence.

"Simone Gbagbo was ideologically and professionally very close to her husband ... although unelected, she behaved as the alter ego of her husband, exercising power and taking state decisions," the warrant said.

Gbagbo and her husband were captured in their compound in April 2011. She is being held under house arrest in the northwestern city of Odienne.

The Cameroon Tribune says she is also charged in her home country with genocide, blood crimes, threat to state security and economic crimes.

The Ivorian government did not immediately say whether it would extradite Simone Gbagbo.

Rights campaigner Human Rights Watch on Thursday welcomed the ICC's decision to indict Gbagbo, but called for action to be taken against Ouattara's supporters as well, who are also alleged to have committed atrocities.

The ICC's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said her office was continuing its investigation into crimes allegedly committed by both sides and that more arrest warrants could follow.

tj/dr (Reuters, dpa)