ICC prosecutor urges probe into recent Ivory Coast violence

[JURIST] International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] told reporters Tuesday that he is willing to investigate alleged war crimes in the Ivory Coast [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], but a lack of referrals is impeding the process. Moreno-Ocampo said that his office is "concerned" [press release] with recent reports of 1,500 casualties during the struggle to force Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile] to cede power but conceded that the office does not have strong enough evidence to proceed:

The Ivory Coast is a member of the Rome Statute [text] which established the ICC, and other member states can refer a country's conduct for scrutiny by the court. Moreno-Ocampo said that this would be helpful in allowing his office's investigation to proceed and discussed a possible a referral from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website], which counts the Ivory Coast as a member. ECOWAS issued a statement [text] on Tuesday "to express its horror at the reported massacre" in the Ivory Coast and "the use of unarmed civilians as human shield in areas of conflict." The ICC's profile on the Ivory Coast [ICC profile] does not contain recent allegations, but the Office of the Prosecutor [official website] lists the investigation as pending. It is reported that Gbagbo is attempting to leave the country [Reuters report] and has instructed his forces to quit fighting [UN News Centre report].

Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] reported the deaths of at least 800 civilians [JURIST report] in the Ivory Coast town of Duekoue as a result of intercommunal violence that took place. Earlier, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] urged all parties in the Ivory Coast to show restraint [JURIST report]. A spokesperson acknowledged unconfirmed reports that the Ivory Coast Republican Forces had "engaged in looting and extortion as well as serious human rights violations such as abductions, arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of civilians" during their advance towards the country's capital of Abidjan. Last month, the OHCHR called for an independent investigation into post-election violence [JURIST report]. In January, UN officials expressed "grave concerns" [JURIST report] regarding the post-election violence, cautioning that genocide could be imminent. In February, Gbagbo dissolved [JURIST report] the country's parliament and electoral commission based on allegations of voter fraud in the long delayed presidential elections. On disbanding the government, Gbagbo charged Prime Minister Guillaume Soro [BBC profile] with creation of new government and new election format. The violence stems from Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to president-elect Alassane Ouattara, who won the November 2010 runoff election according to international observers. Gbagbo was elected president in 2000 to serve a five-year term, but he has managed to stay in office, delaying six successive elections.

 

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