AMSTERDAM/ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Judges at the International Criminal Court on Thursday said Ivory Coast must hand over Simone Gbagbo, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, to stand trial in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.
Laurent Gbagbo and an associate, Charles Ble Goude, are already in the ICC’s detention center in the Netherlands, but Ivory Coast has refused to hand over Simone Gbagbo, saying it will try her on charges including genocide in a domestic court.
All three are accused of plunging the country into a civil war, in which 3,000 people died, rather than relinquish Gbagbo’s grip on power after he lost a 2010 presidential elections to current President Alassane Ouattara.
The former first lady, who had been under house arrest, was brought to the commercial capital Abidjan last week ahead of her expected trial.
The ICC is not allowed to try cases if domestic authorities are doing the job, but the judges said Ivory Coast had not charged her for the same crimes.
“We have already expressed our position on this matter, but I will come back to you on our stance following this new request,” Ivory Coast government spokesman Bruno Kone said.
If Ivory Coast continues to refuse, judges could refer the matter to the court’s 122 member states, which may then decide to impose sanctions.
In a separate decision also announced on Thursday, ICC judges confirmed four charges of crimes against humanity against Ble Goude, former leader of the Young Patriots street militia and member of Gbagbo’s last, unrecognized cabinet.
Through a statement from his lawyer, Ble Goude said the decision “confirms a politically motivated and selective investigation.”
While Ouattara has won praise for Ivory Coast’s rapid, post-war revival, critics accuse him of ignoring crimes committed by his own supporters during a decade-long political crisis.
Rights groups say the perception of “victor’s justice” is compounded by the ICC’s failure to issue warrants targeting pro-Ouattara elements, though investigations are continuing.
“The ICC needs to extend its reach to the Ouattara side to change the status quo for justice in Ivory Coast,” said Param-Preet Singh of Human Rights Watch.
Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Editing by John Stonestreet and Robin Pomeroy