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ICC gears up for key Gbagbo trial

January 27, 2016

The ICC's chief prosecutor has attempted to reassure people that the trial will "uncover the truth through a purely legal process." The former Ivorian president is the first head of state to be tried by the court.

Bensouda says the trial will be "based on the law"
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday warned against "falsehoods" being spread via social media concerning the trial of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, which is set to begin on Thursday.

"The purpose of this trial is to uncover the truth through a purely legal process," said Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at a press conference.

"Our case is based on the law … and on the strength of the evidence our investigators have gathered," she told reporters.

Gbagbo - the first head of state to be tried by the ICC - is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and persecution in relation to post-election violence between 2010 and 2011 that left more than 3,000 people dead.

In November 2010, the ex-president refused to stand down after his rival Alassane Ouattara won elections, prompting widespread violence between supporters of both politicians.

The ICC charged Gbagbo, ally Charles Ble Goude, and the president's wife Simone, although the government refused to hand her over to the international court. The two men are expected to plead not guilty.

Bensouda added that the ICC's investigations would cover both sides of the conflict.

"The investigations into the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire will be on both sides of the conflict," the prosecutor said, referring to the francophone West African nation by its French name. "We started in 2015. We have intensified investigations into the pro-Ouattara camp, and it is ongoing."

Fatou Bensouda on Conflict Zone

Promoted democracy?

However, Gbagbo's supporters claim that the case is based on evidence provided by Ouattara's supporters.

Gbagbo is "the one who promoted democracy," his lawyer Emmanuel Altit told AFP, adding that the charges were "riddled with weaknesses … and incoherences."

Boubacar Kone, a former aide to the ex-president and spokeman for the Ivorian People's Front (FPI) told DW that the trial was "mounted by imperialists," an accusation that critics have leveled against the ICC for rarely placing people outside of Africa on trial.

'We do have support in Africa'

Meanwhile, ICC prosecutor Bensouda told Tim Sebastian of DW's Conflict Zone that the ICC does enjoy support from people in Africa, even if it is not always people in leadership.

"I do not think that the voices of a few leaders - or of a few people from Africa - should be used to disregard the support that we still have in Africa. We do have support in Africa," Bensouda told DW. "I think it is correct to say that most of our cases or all of our cases at the moment are in Africa. But that is not the whole picture."

Gbago's trial at the ICC is set to begin on Thursday, and likely to last three to four years.

ls/msh (AFP, Reuters)