Arrest Warrant Issued for Wife of Ivory Coast's Ex-President

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DAKAR, Senegal -- Simone Gbagbo, the wife of Laurent Gbagbo, the former Ivory Coast strongman, played a central role in postelection violence that cost the lives of thousands of people in 2010 and 2011, the International Criminal Court said Thursday in a newly unsealed warrant for her arrest.

Like her husband, who has been imprisoned at The Hague since last November, Ms. Gbagbo is accused of crimes against humanity in the warrant, which cites her part in the planned murders "and other inhuman acts" that took place after Mr. Gbagbo's defeat in a presidential election in November 2010.

For months afterward, security forces loyal to Mr. Gbagbo who were trying to keep him in power attacked opposition neighborhoods in Abidjan, the country's main city, killing and beating members of ethnic groups known to be hostile to the defeated president. Mr. Gbagbo's troops and the police routinely fired on unarmed civilians and created an atmosphere of terror that prevailed for months. The warrant unsealed on Thursday called the attacks widespread and systematic.

It took helicopter strikes by the French military to finally drive Mr. Gbagbo from power.

The court said that Ms. Gbagbo, as a member of her husband's inner circle and his "alter ego," had an important role in planning the attacks on political rivals. She "exercised joint control over the crimes by having the power to control and give instructions directly to the youth militia who were systematically recruited, armed, trained," the arrest warrant said.

It also said that she "convened frequent meetings with the most senior FDS generals to discuss, in particular, the situation in Abobo," referring to Mr. Gbagbo's security forces by their French initials. Abodo was the principal opposition neighborhood in Abidjan, where much of the bloodshed occurred.

According to the warrant, "the pro-Gbagbo forces that put the common plan into effect did so by almost automatic compliance with the orders they received from Ms. Gbagbo and other members of Mr. Gbagbo's inner circle." Ms. Gbagbo is the first woman to ever be charged by the court.

In its statement, the court said that judges issued the warrant on Feb. 29. It was not clear why it was kept secret until now. The warrant in her husband's case also was kept secret for months after it was issued; it was made public only when he surrendered to court officials at a small airport near Korhogo, Ivory Coast, and was flown to The Hague.

Ms. Gbagbo and her husband were seized by opposition forces in April 2011, after the French military intervention. She has been under house arrest of a sort ever since, and is now detained in Odienné, a small town in the north of Ivory Coast, where state prosecutors have begun interrogating her about her role. Ivory Coast has also charged her with numerous crimes, and it was unclear on Thursday whether the country or the international court would have jurisdiction over her.

The country's assistant state prosecutor, Noel Dje, noted that a new government took office on Thursday and that it would have no comment for now on the international court's action. He said Ms. Gbagbo was "in detention at an official state residence at Odienné." The justice minister did not respond to requests for comment.

The period since Mr. Gbagbo was removed from power has been turbulent, as Ivory Coast struggled to recover from a short civil war in 2010, when as many as 3,000 people may have been killed. Dozens of Mr. Gbagbo's supporters have been arrested since then, and human rights groups have accused the new government of Alassane Ouattara of permitting serious human rights violations and failing to pursue the perpetrators.

Marlise Simons contributed reporting from Paris.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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