(CNN) -- The International Criminal Court on Monday granted the court's chief prosecutor permission to open an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ivory Coast during months of post-election turmoil last year.
In his application to the judges for authorization in June, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo cited sources who said at least 3,000 people were killed, 72 people disappeared and 520 others were subject to arbitrary arrest and detentions since the November 28 election that resulted in dispute.
Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power even though challenger Alassane Ouattara was recognized as the winner. Months of bloodshed ensued, the political stalemate settled by Gbagbo's capture in April.
The prosecutor's office said sources also reported 100 cases of rape, though the number of unreported incidents is thought to be considerably higher.
The court said this was the first time it may open a case in a nation that is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. But Ivory Coast has accepted the jurisdiction of the court.
Human Rights Watch has urged the court to go beyond the latest wave of violence and look into other possible crimes committed during years of conflict and civil war.
The global monitoring group said human rights abuses began with violence-marred elections in 2000 and continued in a subsequent armed conflict. It said cases of murder, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers have been documented under the control of Gbagbo and the current prime minister, Guillaume Soro.
"No one has been credibly prosecuted for the crimes during this period, and a 2004 U.N. Commission of Inquiry report on crimes during the 2002-2003 conflict also has been kept secret," a Human Rights Watch statement said over the summer.
Regardless of actions taken by the International Criminal Court, fair and impartial domestic trials will be of utmost importance, the rights group said.