ICC expands scope of Ivorian war crimes investigation back to 2002

Headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Photo: Vincent van Zeijst

23 February 2012 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that it will expand the scope of its investigation into possible war crimes in Côte d’Ivoire, currently limited to the period after contested presidential elections in late 2010, to as far back as the start of the West African country’s civil war in 2002.

In a press release issued yesterday, the ICC said that three judges serving in one of its pre-trial chambers authorized an expansion of the investigation to cover any alleged crimes committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010, the date of the presidential elections.

“The chamber considered that the violent events in Côte d’Ivoire in this period (including the events since 28 November 2010) are to be treated as a single situation, in which an ongoing crisis involving a prolonged political dispute and power struggle culminated in the events in relation to which the chamber earlier authorized an investigation,” the press release stated.

“Concentrating on the most significant of the samples of incidents, the chamber concluded that there is reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of these events, acts of murder and rape that could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity were committed.”

Last October, the ICC first authorized prosecutors to investigate alleged abuses committed in the aftermath of the 2010 election, when the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down despite losing the United Nations-certified election to Alassane Ouattara.

Deadly violence followed until Mr. Gbagbo was captured in April last year and in November, after the issuing of an arrest warrant, he was transferred by Ivorian authorities to ICC custody in The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is based.

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