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Former Ivory Coast President Held By ICC


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Guy Raz.

Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast, is spending his first full day in detention at The Hague. And Monday, he'll go before the International Criminal Court, the first former head of state ever to do so. Gbagbo is charged with crimes against humanity, allegedly committed when he clung to power after losing last year's presidential election.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton covered that story for us extensively, and joins us again now. And Ofeibea, take us back to the turmoil last year, to that troubled election and the conflict that followed. What happened?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: It's exactly a year ago this week that Ivory Coast held the runoff of the presidential election between Laurent Gbagbo, the sitting president, and Alassane Ouattara, who is the new president. Laurent Gbagbo's supporters on the electoral commission decided that they weren't going to allow the results to be announced.

RAZ: And after that, things went from bad to worse. And it was really this year, for the first four months of this year, that open conflict between pro-Gbagbo loyalists, soldiers and fighters who were backing Alassane Ouattara and his prime minister, fought. And it came to open battle in the main city, Abidjan.

Laurent Gbagbo eventually - after holding onto power, refusing to step down - took refuge in the bunker of his official residence. And he was captured there, finally. But that's after 3,000 people were killed in the violence.

RAZ: Ofeibea, can you tell us more, exactly, about what Laurent Gbagbo is charged with?

QUIST-ARCTON: He is charged with crimes against humanity. And those include rape and murder, and other sexual crimes. Now, he's been charged as a co-conspirator because obviously, Laurent Gbagbo didn't go out and commit the murders himself. But of course, his troops are the ones who are alleged to have committed the murders. And of course, it's not just Gbagbo's side. He is the first big fish to be netted by the International Criminal Court.

But the prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, says that anyone who is found to be responsible for killings and atrocities in Ivory Coast - from about mid-December to mid-April - they could find themselves also at the International Criminal Court. And that's caused a lot of fuss, 'cause Gbagbo's supporters are saying what about those who killed on Ouattara's side; why aren't they being brought to justice?

RAZ: Well, that's a question, Ofeibea. I mean, opposition fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara, who deposed Gbagbo, they were also accused of terrible things in Ivory Coast. So does Gbagbo's detention at the ICC, does it brings with it any sort of closure? Or do Ivoirians, you know, want to see others brought to justice as well?

QUIST-ARCTON: Oh, yes. Certainly, those who are supporters of Gbagbo say this is victor's justice. This is not justice at all. But on Alassane Ouattara's side, he had said that anybody who was responsible for atrocities during the conflict would be brought to justice. But questions are also being asked about the International Criminal Court. Why is the prosecutor only going after African alleged criminals? Why doesn't he go after war criminals in other parts of the world?

So this is a very divisive issue in Ivory Coast, and all over Africa.

RAZ: Ofeibea, thanks.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure.

RAZ: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking about the detention of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.