Prosecutor asks to probe post-election war crime allegations

International Criminal Court official Luis Moreno-Ocampo has asked judges for permission to launch an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides in the aftermath of November's disputed presidential elections.


AFP - The International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo Thursday asked judges for permission to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity after Ivory Coast's disputed election.

"The office of the prosecutor is requesting judges to authorise an investigation into the alleged crimes committed in Cote d'Ivoire," Moreno-Ocampo told reporters at a press conference at the Hague-based ICC.

The investigation will look "into war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Cote d'Ivoire since November 28," his office added in a statement.

The prosecutor's announcement comes as the UN's mission in Ivory Coast on Thursday said eight people had been killed in the country in the last week by pro-Ouattara forces.

The killings happened in and around Abidjan and in the west of the cocao-rich country, a UN human rights spokesman announced in Abidjan.

Apart from the latest deaths, "at least 3,000 persons were killed, 72 persons disappeared and 520 persons were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions in Côte d'Ivoire during the post election violence", Moreno-Ocampo's office said.

"There are also over 100 reported cases of rape, while the number of unreported incidents is believed to be considerably higher."

Newly-inaugurated Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara asked Moreno-Ocampo in a letter inked on May 3 to investigate "the most serious crimes", after a six-month wave of violence swept the restive west African state.

On Monday, a nine-member team led by ICC deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will leave for Abidjan to do a preliminary analysis of the security situation and to talk to victims, Moreno-Ocampo said.

Said Moreno-Ocampo: "It's important that justice in the Ivory Coast needs to be done. Somebody is responsible."

Tens of thousands also fled their homes according to UN estimates, when former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept a UN-backed election commission's ruling that he had lost a second round of presidential polls on November 28 last year.

Fighters on both sides of the conflict have been accused of war crimes, and Ouattara's government has come under fire from rights campaigners claiming only the losing side was being investigated.

The ICC has expressed particular concern about reported massacres in the western Ivory Coast.

Several hundred people were reportedly massacred in the western town of Duekoue, with forces loyal to rivals Gbagbo and Ouattara blaming each other.

"There are crimes against humanity allegedly committed by pro-Gbagbo forces, who attacked civilians challenging his decision to stay in power," Moreno-Ocampo said Thursday.

"After some weeks an armed conflict started where both pro-Gbagbo forces and pro-Ouattara forces allegedly committed war crimes," he said.

Ouattara, backed by much of the international community, took power when forces loyal to him, with support from UN and French troops, captured Gbagbo after a fierce battle in Abidjan in April.

Gbagbo had refused to quit power after UN-certified results showed he had lost the presidential election. Ouattara was sworn in on May 6.

Ivory Coast has been under preliminary examination by Moreno-Ocampo's office since October 1, 2003 after its government accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC.

Last December, Ouattara confirmed acceptance of the ICC jurisdiction for alleged crimes committed in the aftermath of the November 28 poll.

Based on a complementary principle, the Hague-based world crimes court can only try war crimes and crimes against humanity if courts in a specific country are unable, or unwilling to do so.


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