Simone Gbagbo, wife of Ivory Coast’s ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is facing a court of her peers in Ivory Coast this week. She faces charges of aiding her husband Pres. Laurent Gbagbo cling to power after his defeat at the polls as certified by international observers.
Unlike her husband, Mrs. Gbagbo was not transferred to The Hague for trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ivory Coast’s current president, Alassane Ouattara, said the country would handle her prosecution and refused to send her out of the country for trial. She has been under house arrest since she and her husband were first detained in April 2011.
The high profile trial is a test for Ivory Coast, which hopes to prove its judicial capacities to the world, Pierre Adjoumani of the Ivorian Human Rights League, told news agencies.
At the first hearing, State prosecutor Simeon Yabo Odi read out the charges: “undermining national defense, setting up armed groups, taking part in an insurrection movement, disturbing the public order”, as well as tribalism and xenophobia. Some 3,000 people were killed in the election chaos over a four month siege from 2010 to 2011.
The trial was officially opened and then suspended until a later date for further hearings. Simone Gbagbo, who asserts her innocence, is on trial with 82 former Gbagbo supporters in Abidjan.
Known as the Ivorian “Iron Lady,” Mrs. Gbagbo was imprisoned several times for her trade union activities during the struggle for multiparty democracy. Later on, she became an active politician and held various seats in parliament and the national assembly, as well as being the vice president of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party.
Meanwhile, human rights group have begun to express concerns over the trial of the ex-president, some calling it unbalanced. Human Rights Watch said in a press interview: “The ICC is only prosecuting ex-Pres. Gbagbo’s side. No charges have been brought against Ouattara’s militia, which, they said, sets a bad example for international justice.
The ICC is not allowed to try cases if domestic authorities are already taking action, but can step in if Ivory Coast cannot bring the perpetrators to justice.