Arrest warrant unsealed for Ivory Coast's former first lady

(File photo) Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo and his wife, Simone, after their arrested on April 11, 2011.

Story highlights

  • ICC prosecutor says court expects Ivory Coast to surrender Simone Gbagbo
  • The ICC alleges Simone Gbagbo recruited volunteers to go after Ouattara supporters
  • Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave office after losing the 2010 election
  • The former president is awaiting trial at The Hague in Netherlands

The International Criminal Court unsealed an arrest warrant Thursday for Ivory Coast's former first lady, accusing her of crimes against humanity in the aftermath of her husband's election defeat in 2010.

Read more: Political tensions rise as Gbagbo's top allies arrested

It says that Simone Gbagbo, wife of Laurent Gbagbo, is wanted "for her individual criminal responsibility as regards the crimes against humanity of murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhumane acts committed during the post-election crisis" beginning November 28, 2010.

Laurent Gbagbo, then the incumbent president, refused to step down after Alassane Ouattara was declared the winner of the election. The standoff sparked months of violence between supporters of the two sides, leaving thousands dead.

Read more: International criminal court to probe war crimes in Ivory Coast

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The ICC warrant, which was issued under seal in February, alleges that as a member of the president's inner circle, his wife was an "indirect co-perpetrator" because she attended meetings at which a plan was formulated, discussed and carried out to persecute Ouattara supporters.

"Moreover, Ms. Gbagbo played a key role in recruiting, arming and integrating thousands of volunteers and enlisting them into the FDS chain of command," the warrant said, referring to the Ivorian Defense and Security Forces.

Read more: 300,000 still displaced in Ivory Coast

"At meetings or public gatherings during the post-election crisis, Ms. Gbagbo ... instructed the pro-Gbagbo forces to commit crimes against individuals who posed a threat to her husband's power," the warrant alleged.

Laurent Gbagbo was arrested by Ivorian authorities in April 2011. He surrendered to the ICC in December of that year, and is currently awaiting trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on crimes against humanity for the civil unrest and deaths. The court recently rejected a request from Gbagbo that he be released in Netherlands until his trial begins. He has proclaimed his innocence.

Read more: Can Africa avoid violence after disputed elections?

Simone Gbagbo, 63, was arrested in Ivory Coast at the same time as her husband. She is being held there still, and was questioned by magistrates earlier this month ahead of a national trial in which she's accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Now, the ICC wants Ivory Coast to hand her over.

"The (ICC) judges have decided, it is now up to the Ivorian authorities to surrender Mrs. Simone Gbagbo to the court," said a statement from ICC prosecutor's office.

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