ICC prosecutor seeks to open Ivory Coast probe

23rd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor asked judges Thursday for permission to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity after Ivory Coast's disputed election, his office said.

"The prosecutor has requested ICC judges for authorisation to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Cote d'Ivoire since November 28," Moreno-Ocampo's office said at the ICC's Hague-based headquarters.

"At least 3,000 persons were killed, 72 persons disappeared and 520 persons were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions in Côte d'Ivoire during the post election violence", his office said in a statement.

"There are also over 100 reported cases of rape, while the number of unreported incidents is believed to be considerably higher."

Newly-inaugurated Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara asked Moreno-Ocampo in a letter inked on May 3 to investigate "the most serious crimes", after a six-month wave of violence swept the restive west African state.

Moreno-Ocampo announced his intention in early April to ask ICC judges to authorise an investigation into "massacres committed in systematic or general fashion" in the Ivory Coast.

Some 3,000 people were killed and tens of thousands fled their homes according to UN estimates, when former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept a UN-backed election commission's ruling that he had lost a second round of presidential polls on November 28 last year.

Fighters on both sides of the conflict have been accused of war crimes, and Ouattara's government has come under fire from rights campaigners claiming only the losing side was being investigated.

The UN mission in Ivory Coast said on Thursday that eight people had been killed in the country in the last week by pro-Ouattara forces last week.

The ICC has expressed particular concern about reported massacres in the western Ivory Coast.

Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue, with forces loyal to rivals Gbagbo and Ouattara blaming each other.

Human Rights Watch has said that forces loyal to Ouattara killed or raped hundreds of people and burned villages in a rampage late March.

Ouattara, backed by much of the international community, took power when forces loyal to him, with support from UN and French troops, captured Gbagbo after a fierce battle in Abidjan in April.

Gbagbo had refused to quit power after UN-certified results showed he had lost the presidential election. Ouattara was sworn in on May 6.

Ivory Coast has been under preliminary examination by Moreno-Ocampo's office since October 1, 2003 after its government accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Last December, Ouattara confirmed acceptance of the ICC jurisdiction for alleged crimes committed in the aftermath of the November 28 poll.

Based on a complementary principle, the Hague-based world crimes court can only try war crimes and crimes against humanity if courts in a specific country are unable, or unwilling to do so.

© 2011 AFP

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