Former Ivory Coast President on Trial at ICC for Bitter Election Loss

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In the United States, when a presidential candidate loses an election, he or she gives a concession speech that wishes luck to the winner of the race and gives positive encouragement to unite the country. Not all countries follow this model. The International Criminal Court has recently accused Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo of causing post-election violence in an attempt to cling to power after losing his country’s presidential elections.  He is currently on trial for, among other things, rape and murder. This is the farthest thing from bowing out gracefully.

When asked about the case, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor for the ICC, said “[w]e will show that Mr. Gbagbo and forces under his control are responsible for the death, rapes, serious injuries to, and arbitrary detention of, countless law abiding citizens” who allegedly supported the opposing party, and will narrow their claims to four specific incidents. These incidents “will show that Mr. Gbagbo is responsible for the killings of at least 166 persons, the rapes of at least 34 women and girls, the infliction of serious bodily injury and suffering on at least 94 persons and for committing the crime of persecution against at least 294 victims. . . .” Gbagbo is the only head of state who has ever been extradited to The Hague to be tried by the ICC.

After Alassane Ouattara was declared president following an election, Gbagbo refused to give up the presidency and allegedly ordered his supporters to attack his opponent’s backers. However, his lawyers have argued that the ICC has no standing to try him for rape or murder and that he should be tried in the Ivory Coast, but the ICC already held that they do have jurisdiction, though the case could be thrown out if The Ivory Coast investigates or prosecutes for the same crime. As of now, according to Ivorian officials, he has only been charged with “economic crimes.”

What about the other side? Ouattara supporters have also been allegedly supported post-election violence as well, but a representative of the Human Rights Watch claims that investigations into that side of the violence are much slower, possibly showing a bias for “victor’s justice.”

What would be the correct way to proceed? Should the ICC be handling this prosecution or should the Ivory Coast step in and try their former president? If that were to happen, do you think he would get a fair trial in his own country?

Source: Associated Press


  1. If the Côte d’Ivoire feels Gbagbo is responsible then it’s a domestic problem. Why should the ICC get involved? International courts get little done…wasn’t US President Bush convicted of war crimes in international court? Well done Richard! You’re the best blogger I’ve seen on this website.

  2. The Rome Statute provides for inadmissibility when the perpetrator has been tried by a court, channeling the common criminal law principle of double jeopardy. If the domestic court stepped in and tried Gbagbo in this case, ICC involvement would be unnecessary and barred by the Rome Statute. There is no doubt that crimes against humanity have been committed in this case and that the elements of Article 7 of the Statute have been satisfied. It seems the issue most have with this particular situation is Gbagbo’s individually criminal responsibility (personal jurisdiction) under the Statute. He was charged as an indirect co-perpetrator. It would seem that the ICC felt under that Article that Gbagbo induced the commission of the crimes and ordered them under the Statute. This case is especially interesting due to his position as head of state; it is one of first impression. Since the ICC is a court of limited resources, on one hand if the government is genuinely willing or able to prosecute, and does so, the ICC shouldn’t get involved. On the other hand, the ICC has the authority to step in when grave crimes against humanity have been committed on a territory which is a state party to the Rome Statute. The political powers at play here makes this case especially sensitive before the court, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out at trial.

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