The pre-trial Chamber of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) has postponed opening of the confirmation of charges hearing of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo to August 13 for giving his lawyers more time to prepare their case, the U.N.-backed court announced on Tuesday.
"Today, 12 June 2012, following the request submitted by Laurent Gbagbo's Defense, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to postpone the opening of the confirmation of charges hearing in the case. The Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo to 13 August 2012 to preserve the rights of the Defense in fair proceedings," read the court statement.
The statement said the Chamber arrived at the decision after considering the fact that the defense team was granted additional resources shortly before the opening of the confirmation of charges hearing, which was originally scheduled for June 18.
During the confirmation of charges hearing, the Pre-Trial Chamber judges would study the evidence submitted by the prosecution against Gbagbo before deciding whether they were enough to proceed with the defendant's trial.
Incidentally, Gbagbo's lawyers had requested the Chamber last week to postpone the opening of the hearing to allow the defense team to prepare for an effective and efficient defense for the confirmation hearing.
Gbagbo is accused of bearing individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity, namely murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, committed in Ivory Coast between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.
Gbagbo, who was forcefully removed from power in an armed conflict, was extradited to the Netherlands on November 30, 2011 to stand trial at the ICC for alleged atrocities committed by forces loyal to him during the post-election conflict.
Gbagbo was captured by French Special Forces in a military operation carried out in April 2011 after he refused to step down in favor of internationally-accepted President-elect Alassane Ouattara, who was declared winner in the November 28, 2010, presidential election. Soon after his arrest, Gbagbo was handed over to forces loyal to Ouattara by the French forces.
Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in the presidential run-off and quit office in favor of Ouattara had tipped the country into its most violent conflict in a decade. While Ouattara was backed by the international community and the rebels controlling the northern part of Ivory Coast since the 2002 civil war, Gbagbo had the support of the country's leading Generals.
The conflict was finally halted with the arrest of Gbagbo. But it had resulted in the killing of 3,000 people, besides forcing a million to flee their homes. The ICC accuses Gbagbo as well as the forces loyal to him and those of his rival Alassane Ouattara of killings, rapes and other alleged abuses during the conflict.
Incidentally, the 2010 presidential polls were held as part of international efforts to reunify Ivory Coast, which had been wrecked by a long-running civil war that split it into government-controlled South and a rebel-held North in 2002. Prior to the civil war, Ivory Coast—-the world's biggest Cocoa exporter-—was seen as a model of enduring peace and prosperity.
by RTT Staff Writer
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