Mission to ICoast "when the time is right", says ICC

6th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Thursday it would send a mission to Ivory Coast "when the time is right" for a preliminary probe of post-election violence.

"We will send a mission to the Ivory Coast when the time is right, at the invitation of the Ivorian authorities or with their authorisation," an official in the prosecutor's office told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, the country's internationally recognised election winner Alassane Ouattara told France's Europe 1 radio that an ICC mission could arrive within days to probe what he described as a campaign of rape and murder masterminded by President Laurent Gbagbo.

"I have already written to the Secretary General of the United Nations to ask that the International Criminal Court send an investigating mission to Ivory Coast and I'm told that this will be done in the coming days," Ouattara said from his blockaded hotel headquarters in Abidjan.

Ouattara is the widely acknowledged victor of November 28 presidential elections, but Gbagbo, in power for over a decade, has refused to step down.

The United Nations says 210 people have been killed in the country since mid-December as fears of civil war escalate.

Last month, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo warned that he would prosecute those responsible for any deadly violence in the Ivory Coast.

The Ivory Coast is not a signatory of the ICC's founding Rome Statute, one prerequisite for jurisdiction.

But in 2003, Gbagbo voluntarily recognised the court's authority over crimes committed after September 2002, when he was the target of a failed coup.

A preliminary investigation opened by the prosecutor at the time "continues and includes recent events," the official said.

Such preliminary probes seek to establish whether crimes within the jurisdiction of the court -- war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide -- were committed.

© 2011 AFP

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