THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court unsealed an indictment Thursday against former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife on charges including murder, rape and persecution. It was the first time in the court’s 10-year history it has charged a woman.
The world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal said the arrest warrant was issued on Feb. 29 for former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity.
Her husband, Laurent Gbagbo, is already in custody at the court’s detention unit in The Hague facing similar charges stemming from his fight to retain power after losing a 2010 presidential election. If his wife is extradited, they could face justice together in an unprecedented husband-wife trial.
But a senior member of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s government, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said Ivory Coast has already informed the ICC that they will not let her go.
“We informed them of this a long time ago,” he said.
The court said in the arrest warrant that there is evidence pro-Gbagbo forces deliberately attacked perceived supporters of Ouattara in the aftermath of the election.
Judges who reviewed evidence supporting the charges against Ms. Gbagbo said they found “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Ms. Gbagbo bears individual criminal responsibility for the crimes … as ‘an indirect co-perpetrator.’”
Her husband was the first former head of state to be taken into custody by the court when he was sent there last year.
Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat following the election. Ouattara finally took power in April 2011 with the help of French and U.N. forces.
It is very rare for a woman to be charged by an international war crimes court. In the past, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted former Bosnian Serb president Biljana Plavsic of persecution and sentenced her to 11 years imprisonment.
Associated Press writer Rukmini Callimachi contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.
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