Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast, was flown to The Hague on Tuesday, 29.11.2011 to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), for alleged crimes against humanity committed during the bloody post-election violence that erupted in the Ivory Coast in November 2010.
An Ivorian plane believed to be carrying the former leader landed at 4am on 30.11.2011 in Rotterdam, second largest city in the Netherlands. [Source].
Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to step down after a disputed presidential election plunged Ivory Coast into a six-month armed conflict that reportedly killed 3000 people and displaced many more. Horrific crimes allegedly committed by Gbagbo's forces include, extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, abductions and enforced disappearances.
There were loud calls for Laurent Gbagbo to stand aside in the interest of peace and human rights, but he refused to comply. Even the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) urged Gbagbo to surrender power.
One month into the violence, the ICC warned all parties involved in the conflict that perpetrators of crimes under the jurisdiction of the court would be prosecuted.
In March 2011, president Obama urged Laurent Gbagbo in a video message to follow "the example of leaders who reject violence and abide by the will of the people."
Laurent Gbagbo ignored all these calls.
Then on Monday, 11 April 2011, the inevitable happened. Gbagbo was arrested by forces loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, backed by French forces. He was humiliated and held under house arrest until he was transferred to The Hague.
He is now in the custody of the ICC, on charges of crimes against humanity.
In December 2010, I said power struggle endangers lives and perpetrators of crimes in Ivory Coast would eventually have their day in a national or international court. Hence, the decision to bring Laurent Gbagbo to justice is welcomed. However, he would have been tried in Ivory Coast. His transfer to The Hague reveals that the Ivorian justice system is flawed and unable to grant the former president a fair trial.
It is important to remember that not only Gbagbo is responsible for crimes during the violence. Both parties sides in the conflict allegedly committed crimes. Forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, current president of Ivory Coast, also allegedly committed atrocious crimes, including killing across ethnic lines. The ICC should investigate these allegations and bring perpetrators to book. Selective justice would undermine national unity in Ivory Coast - a country that currently enjoys fragile stability. Accused individuals should be tried in national courts and should be flown abroad only when national courts are incapable of delivering justice for victims of atrocious crimes.
Gbagbo is the first head of state indicted by the ICC to arrive at The Hague to stand trial. [Source]. He has made history for the wrong reason.
The ouster of Gbagbo and Egypt's longtime despot, Hosni Mubarak, earlier this year sparked a debate with an unusual question: Laurent Gbagbo or Hosni Mubarak? Both men have unenviable records. Join the debate.
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