LONDON – Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo has been acquitted of war crimes and all charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, an ICC press office release said.
Ex-president Gbagbo, who ruled the West African nation from 2000 until his arrest in 2011, was arrested and put on trial for violence in the country following the 2010 elections.
The ICC said prosecutors have been unable to prove his guilt nor that of his co-accused Charles Ble Goude, an ex-minister in the country.
Despite the ex-president acquittal, the prosecutor could request that he remains in detention, according to the ICC’s press office. The ICC judges, however, will listen to the possibility of that request Wednesday morning at 4 am should it be made.
The West African country suffered months of violence when then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after his main opposition challenger Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner of the presidential election.
According to several international reports, thousands of people died, and several thousand were displaced during the civil war that ensued.
Gbagbo was eventually arrested months later and flown to the ICC court where he faced charges of crimes against humanity in the West African country, also known as Cote d’Ivoire.
Several leading rights groups pressed for the prosecution of perpetrators on both sides, but the ICC’s prosecution office prosecuted only Gbagbo and his allies, leaving those allied with incumbent president Ouattara.
Some in the Ivory Coast accused the ICC’s prosecution office of bias and favoritism, arguing Ouattara and his group was deliberately left alone because of his wife’s influence and nationality as a French citizen and because like Ouattara, the ICC’s current prosecutor is a Muslim with a Manlike tribal affiliation.
While this local belief in the country may not be true, the ICC’s judges found that the Office of the Prosecutor had not presented enough evidence needed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Gbagbo’s wife, former First Lady Simone Gbagbo said that her husband’s acquittal is “a joy.”
“From the beginning, I was convinced that President Laurent Gbagbo was not guilty of everything he was accused of,” she told the BBC’s Valerie Bony in Abidjan.