Ivory Coast officially becomes member of ICC

A woman walks up to the offices of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on July 1, 2002.  By Robin Utrecht (ANP/AFP/File)

A woman walks up to the offices of the International Criminal Court in the Hague on July 1, 2002. By Robin Utrecht (ANP/AFP/File)

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Ivory Coast on Friday became a member of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where its former president is facing trial for alleged crimes against humanity.

Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba formally turned in paperwork to the United Nations in New York showing the country had ratified the Rome Statute, which set up the court. The moves makes it the 122nd state to become party to the statute.

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo is currently being held by the ICC, where he has been charged with crimes against humanity committed during the five months in which he refused to step down after he was declared the loser in the November 2010 election. The violence that ensued cost around 3,000 lives.

The court has also issued an arrest warrant for Gbagbo’s wife Simone, accusing her of being his “alter ego” in orchestrating a campaign of election violence.

The warrant on four counts of crimes against humanity was issued in February but only made public by the court in November.

The government of Ivory Coast will “soon decide” on the court’s demand, Bamba told AFP.

“It’s a matter of subsidiarity,” he said. “If the government thinks that we have the means to judge Mrs Gbagbo we will do so, otherwise we will refer her to the ICC.”

Likewise, Ivory Coast is still considering whether it or the ICC will try Charles Ble Goude, the former youth minister and powerful orator known for galvanizing popular support for Gbagbo, who was arrested in January.

From the moment of ratification, “the ICC can take up the case… but if the jurisdiction of Ivory Coast decides to put Charles Ble Goude on trial then that will be the case,” the ambassador said.

According to the ambassador, by formally ratifying its participation in the ICC,Ivory Coast’s shows its aim to fight impunity and to fulfill its international commitments on respecting human rights.

Ivory Coast had signed the Rome Statute in 1998 but had not ratified it. Pointing to that fact, Gbagbo’s defense lawyers had called the competence of the ICC into question.

However, ICC judges in August ruled that the court was competent to try Gbagbo, basing their decision largely on a declaration signed by Bamba Mamadou, who was Gbagbo’s foreign minister in April 2003. Mamadou recognized the court’s authority.