Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is be tried at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.
Gbagbo is accused of plunging his country into civil war after losing a presidential run-off vote in 2010. The post-election violence is said to have resulted in the deaths of around 3,000 people.
In a 131-page ruling, judges found there were “substantial grounds to believe” Gbagbo was criminally responsible for the crimes committed during the violence, singling out supporters of his political rival Alassane Ouattara for “systematic attack”.
Prosecutors say he devised a plan with co-conspirators including his wife Simone, who remains under house arrest in Ivory Coast, and youth leader Charles Ble Goude, currently in ICC custody, to stoke the violence and benefit from it.
“It’s the first victory for the victims of the post-election crisis,” said Issiaka Diaby, who heads a collective of victims of the violence. “From today, people will know you can no longer kill and burn people with impunity.”
Lawyers for Gbagbo could not be immediately reached for comment and it was unclear whether they planned to appeal the judges’ decision that prosecutors had submitted enough evidence to justify pursuing the case.
“Obviously the decision that was taken was the one we were hoping for, because the evidence was there,” Ivorian government spokesman Bruno Kone said. “I think it is a good thing for the victims.”not immune from justice”.
Gbagbo has been in custody since 2011, when Ouattara handed him over to the Hague-based court. Gbagbo could face a maximum prison term of life imprisonment if convicted. No trial date has yet been set.