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Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara’s administration has turned over former president Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to answer charges of crimes against humanity. The court’s prosecutor accuses Gbagbo of being responsible for at least three thousand deaths and numerous other acts of violence during a six-month stand-off in the aftermath of the presidential elections, which he claimed were rigged by Outtara despite approval from the international community.
Gbagbo appears to retain at least some support in Ivory Coast. So his surrender to the ICC may make it more difficult in the short run for Ouattara to reconcile with the opposition.
Further, the ICC is criticized by some for being unduly focused on the misdeeds of Africans. At present, a separate Hague tribunal, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, is in the final stages of its trial of former Liberian tyrant Charles Taylor. The ICC has under indictment Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir as well as numerous other Africans.
Gbagbo’s conviction is by no means certain. Nevertheless, a consequence of the formal prosecution of former heads of state before The Hague tribunals may have some impact on a culture of impunity up to now enjoyed by African (and other) heads of state.