Former Ivory Coast leader Gbagbo appears at ICC in Hague

 

Ivory Coast's ex-president appeared at the International Criminal Court today, the first former head of state to face judges at the world's first permanent war crimes court. Laurent Gbagbo vowed to fight the charges against him.

Gbagbo, 66, was calm and smiled at supporters in the public gallery as the 25-minute hearing opened. He told judges he did not need them to read the charges.

Gbagbo was extradited to the Netherlands last week to face accusations his supporters committed murder and rape as he rejected an election result and tried to cling to power.

Ex-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Liberian leader Charles Taylor were also sent to The Hague for trial, but both faced temporary, ad hoc tribunals — Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Gbagbo is the first to be tried at the ICC, which started work in 2002. Together, the cases are ushering in a new era in which heads of state no longer enjoy impunity.

"In the past, if you were a head of state you could commit massive atrocities and nothing would happen," Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said. "This era is gone."

Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede. President Alassane Ouattara took power in April with the help of French and U.N. forces.

The former president, speaking in French, said he wanted to see the evidence against him.

"I will challenge that evidence and then you hand down your judgment," he told the three-judge panel.

Gbagbo also complained about his arrest by opposition forces backed by French troops in April, saying he saw his son beaten and his interior minister killed in the fighting.

"I was the president of the republic and the residence of the president of the republic was shelled," he said.

He also complained about his transfer to The Hague last week from northern Ivory Coast where he was under house arrest.

"We were deceived," he said, adding the official in charge of his transfer "did not have the courage to tell me I was going to The Hague."

Monday's brief hearing was to confirm Gbagbo's identity and ensure that he understood his rights and the charges. According to court papers, Gbagbo is charged as an "indirect perpetrator" in a carefully orchestrated campaign of violence against supporters of Ouattara.

Presiding judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi of Argentina scheduled a hearing for June 18 where prosecutors will present a summary of their evidence and judges will decide whether it is strong enough to merit bringing Gbagbo's case to trial.

Before that, judges will schedule interim status conferences to discuss progress in the case. Gbagbo could challenge his detention at such a conference and seek to be released pending further hearings.

Even before Gbagbo was led into the courtroom, his lawyers called his arrest and transfer to the court French "neocolonialism."

"It's a neocolonialist trial," Gbagbo's adviser Toussaint Alain told reporters in The Hague. "The (ICC) has become an instrument of France ... to empower friends and punish the ones who don't follow along."

Gbagbo's lawyer Habiba Toure also challenged the legitimacy of the Gbagbo's detention last week on an ICC warrant while he was under house arrest.

"In principal, an arrest warrant is delivered to a free individual or a person on the run, which was not the case for Mr. Gbagbo because he was already in the hands of Ivory Coast officials," Toure said.

A handful of supporters outside court also condemned France's role in his ouster.

"This is a masquerade by French President Nicolas Sarkozy," said Abel Naki, who traveled from Paris to be at the court. "Sarkozy orchestrated this coup d'etat."

The protesters' anger underscored lingering tensions between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters in Ivory Coast.

Moreno-Ocampo, stressed last week that both sides of the political divide in Ivory Coast committed crimes in the postelection chaos and that his investigation was continuing.

Human rights groups say grave abuses also were committed by forces loyal to Ouattara, who enlisted the help of a former rebel group to force Gbagbo from office.

Gbagbo is the sixth suspect taken into custody by the court, which has launched seven investigations, all of them in Africa. A further 12 suspects remain at large and the court has no police force to arrest them.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?