Forces of I.Coast leader must be probed for abuse: lawyer

26th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

Lawyers representing more than 1,000 people claiming to have been victims of violence committed by the forces of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara urged the International Criminal Court Tuesday to speed up a probe into their allegations.

Paris-based lawyer Habiba Toure filed papers before The Hague-based court, as former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo prepares to go on trial Thursday for his role in deadly post-election violence that wracked the west African country in 2010-2011, killing more than 3,000 people.

Gbagbo faces four charges of crimes against humanity in the wake of the unrest sparked when he refused to step down after losing the November 2010 vote to his bitter rival Ouattara.

"Five years after the electoral crisis and 14 years after the start of abuses suffered by civilians mainly in the western Ivory Coast, the We ethnic group, ... no member of pro-Ouattara forces suspected of committing these serious crimes against humanity has been prosecuted," Toure said in a statement.

"Despairing because of this negligence, 1,073 victims and their dependents have decided to send applications to the relevant sections of the ICC," Toure said, adding that the We group was being persecuted because of its perceived support for Gbagbo.

The dossier included alleged crimes and evidence against Ouattara's forces and was handed over to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's office.

Gbagbo was ousted in April 2011 by Ouattara's troops aided by French and UN forces after holing up for months in his fortress-like compound in the Ivorian economic capital, Abidjan.

Alongside his former ally, Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo, 70, goes on trial accused of devising and implementing a plan to extend his 10-year rule through a brutal campaign of murders and rapes.

But human rights groups too have called on Bensouda to speed up her investigation into crimes committed by Ouattara's camp, warning that a failure to do so may leave many in the Ivory Coast feeling sidelined.

Gbagbo's supporters in the past have accused Ouattara's backers of reprisals, of practising a "victors' justice."

Gambian lawyer Bensouda herself has pledged to deepen her probe, but her office has been hamstrung by limited resources.

"The victims are surprised by the prosecutor's inertia, while they continue to face new crimes and the consequences of the abuses already suffered," Toure said.

They are "waiting for prosecutor Bensouda... to prosecute these individuals.... or face losing the little credibility she has left in the face of growing criticism."

ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah confirmed the files had been received and said they "are currently being checked and considered."


© 2016 AFP

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