Former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, appeared for the first time before a panel of three international criminal court judges on 5.12.2011 - a historic day for the court. It was his first official public appearance since he was ousted on 11 April 2011.
Gbagbo refused to step down after he was declared loser of the November 2010 presidential election. His refusal to accept defeat and step aside plunged Ivory Coast into months of armed conflict during which more than 3000 people were reported dead.
Video footage posted on the YouTube channel of the International Criminal Court showed a "subdued" Laurent Gbagbo dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie. The former leader appeared humble and made an emotional presentation of himself: his name, place and date of birth. He also recounted the circumstances surrounding his arrest by French forces on 11 April 2011, his detention in Ivory Coast and subsequent transfer to the The Hague.
He waived his right to have the charges read out to him, and admitted that he had been informed of his rights.
The wheels of justice have started to turn.
Laurent Gbagbo had a choice to either denounce violence and step down in the interest of peace or face justice for crimes committed as a result of his decision to cling to power. He apparently chose the latter.
Gbagbo is the first former head of state to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) since its inception in 2002. He won't be the last - so long as people in authority around the world continue to disregard human rights and the will of the people. Laurent Gbagbo's appearance before the ICC sends a resounding message to those in power that there is no impunity for crimes against humanity and other rights abuses committed against civilians.
Images of Laurent Gbagbo in the dock and Hosni Mubarak in cage are reminders that no one is above the law, especially in this age of international justice.
Mr. Gbagbo is accused of crimes against humanity committed in Ivory Coast. He has the right to be presumed innocent of all charges until proven guilty. His next court hearing is scheduled of 18 June 2012.
*Photo: The Guardian.
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