independent

Monday 21 April 2014

War crimes hunt for Gbagbo wife

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo (AP)

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, on charges including murder, rape and persecution.

The court announced on Thursday it had unsealed an arrest warrant issued on February 29 for the first woman indicted by the world's first permanent war crimes court.

Laurent Gbagbo is already in custody at the court's detention unit in The Hague facing similar charges stemming from his fight to retain power after losing a 2010 presidential election. If Mrs Gbagbo is extradited, they could face justice together in an unprecedented husband-wife trial.

But a senior member of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara's government, said Ivory Coast has already informed the ICC that they will not let her go.

"We informed them of this a long time ago," he said.

The court said in the arrest warrant that there is evidence pro-Gbagbo forces deliberately attacked perceived supporters of Mr Ouattara in the aftermath of the election.

Judges who reviewed evidence supporting the charges against Mrs Gbagbo said they found "there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mrs Gbagbo bears individual criminal responsibility for the crimes ... as 'an indirect co-perpetrator.'"

Her husband was the first former head of state to be taken into custody by the court when he was sent there last year.

Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after Mr Gbagbo refused to concede defeat following the election. Mr Ouattara finally took power in April 2011 with the help of French and UN forces.

It is very rare for a woman to be charged by an international war crimes court. In the past, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic of persecution and sentenced her to 11 years imprisonment.

www.icc-cpi.int (International Criminal Court)

Press Association

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