ABIDJAN – An International Criminal Court investigation into Ivory Coast’s post-election conflict will focus on two to six people thought most responsible for atrocities, the prosecutor said during a visit to the country.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who was addressing a news conference late on Saturday after meeting Ivorian officials, including President Alassane Ouattara, did not give any names.
The court said last week it would launch an investigation into killings and rapes committed in Ivory Coast during a violent post-poll power struggle between Ouattara and former president Laurent Gbagbo.
“We’ll focus the investigation on the most serious crimes and the most responsible, so we will plan to investigate between two to six persons total,” he said.
He said he could not yet name any of them.
“For the rest, it will be the … national authorities who decide how other investigations should be done,” he said.
Moreno-Ocampo reiterated that the court would only investigate crimes going back to the election, the first round of which was last October, not further back into the near decade of crisis since a failed 2002 rebellion against Gbagbo that split the country in two. Gbagbo’s camp have rejected that time limit as unfair.
“We have no bias, we listen to the victims,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “The people who are suspects will have all the right to defend themselves,”
Gbagbo refused to step down after losing a U.N.-certified election to Ouattara in November. He then used a force of soldiers, paramilitaries and youth militias to entrench his position and crush dissent, re-igniting civil war.
Some 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced in the ensuing violence before French-backed pro-Ouattara forces finally ousted Gbagbo in April.
The former leader is being detained in the north of the country and Ouattara said last month he would be tried in Ivory Coast for economic crimes and also face justice at the ICC.
Although the Ivory Coast is not one of the member countries covered by the ICC, it has accepted its jurisdiction.