Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] expressed confidence [HRW report] on Monday that former first lady Simone Gbagbo’s upcoming trial in Ivory Coast for crimes against humanity could be a “pivotal moment for justice.” HRW also warned that if the trial is to be meaningful to victims, it must be credible, fair and followed by trials of other high-level rights abusers in the 2010-11 post-election crisis, regardless of their respective allegiance or political affiliation. The prosecution alleges Gbagbo participated in a “crisis committee” consisting of leaders from the political party of her husband Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] and key government ministers that planned and organized abuses against Ouattara supporters that resulted in 3,000 deaths. According to the prosecution, this was done to keep her husband in power at all costs. Gbagbo has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for crimes against humanity during the post-election crisis. HRW’s West Africa Researcher Jim Wormington stated that “Simone Gbagbo’s trial—the first in Ivory Coast for crimes against humanity—should be an opportunity for victims of pro-Gbagbo forces to learn the truth about her alleged role in abuses.” Gbagbo has been in custody in the Ivory Coast since April 2011 and is awaiting trial which is scheduled to begin this Tuesday. The ICC trial of Laurent Gbagbo began last January in The Hague.
In November 2010 Laurent Gbagbo ran for reelection against former prime minister Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile]. The EU recognized that Ouattara defeated Gbagbo, but Gbagbo refused to concede victory [JURIST report]. Gbagbo has been accused [JURIST report] of starting a civil war after losing the presidency, which resulted in 3,000 deaths and the displacement of one million people. In May 2015, a panel of appeals judges for the ICC affirmed [JURIST report] a ruling against former first lady Simone Gbagbo that allows the case to go forward to trial. However, the Ivory Coast government has so far refused to turn Simone Gbagbo over [JURIST report] to the ICC, instead insisting that their own courts can effectively dispense justice. However, some human rights groups representing the victims have refused to participate in Gbagbo’s trial citing an incomplete investigation into her role in the abuses and breaches of Côte d’Ivoire’s criminal procedure in the preparations for the trial. At the time of announcement of her trial, Gbagbo was already sentenced to 20 years in jail for attacking state authority in the 2010-11 post-election period. Laurent Gbagbo pleaded not guilty in January to charges of crimes against humanity at the start of his trial at the ICC. He faces four charges of crimes against humanity for murder, attempted murder, rape and persecution during a wave of post-election violence between December 2010 and April 2011.