International Justice

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The First ICC Warrant Issued to a Woman

Ex-Ivorian Leader’s wife gets ICC warrant 


Simone Gbagbo became the first women to ever be issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court.  She is charged with aiding her husband in perpetuating the election violence that occurred during the 2010-2011 period which resulted in over 3,000 people killed. Her husband, Laurent Gbagbo currently awaits trial in the Hauge. In a similar article, it is discussed that despite his frail health, he was fit enough to stand trial for the multiple charges of crimes against humanity. 

Simone Gbagbo is being accused of four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence. Calling it a “co-ordination plan” the court claims that Simone Gbagbo worked closely wither her husband was part of the “common plan” and acted as his “alter-ego”.  Against the ICCs requests, the current President, Alassane Ouattara has requested the Cote d’Ivoire’s national court system should take over and handle prosecution. 

Nevertheless, this indictment marks an important progression in the ICC’s legitimacy in proving that arrest warrants can be issued to both men and women perpetrators. This issuance will hopefully set a precedence and potentially act as a deterrence measure for future potential female orchestrators of mass violence who possibly believed that they would be immune to the prosecution of the ICC on the basis of their gender. 


3 responses to “The First ICC Warrant Issued to a Woman

  1. Micaela December 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    The prosecution of Simone Gbagbo holds a lot of significance for multiple reasons. First of all, she is the first woman to be prosecuted by the ICC, which symbolizes a tipping of the current role of gender in international justice as well as an acknowledgement of the fact that women too are capable of brutality. “The indictment is, therefore, an important symbol of unfortunate fact from a humanitarian persepctive: women, as well as men, plan and commit horrific acts of violence.” This indictment marks a recognition of the reality that any perpetrator will be held accountable for his/her actions, regardless of gender. The indictment also broadens the deterrence factor of the ICC: there may have been some women that had thought previously they could get away with involvement in such heinous crimes as murder or rape, or women who have aided their husbands in similar situations, that will be conscious of Simone’s example. “Yet, the case’s most important legacy may instead be the ICC’s new willingness to look beyond formal governmental and military hierarchies in identifying those most responsible for serious international crimes.” Simone Gbagbo’s indictment also may have a deterrence effect for those outside of official political or military office. I think the Court is reaffirming that involvement in the process of planning heinous crimes is more important than official status; who you are is not most significant, but what you have done. Overall, the concept of greater disincentives and deterrence for large-scale crimes remains what I believe is one of the most significant lessons from Simone’s indictment.

  2. coschaput December 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Simone Gbagbo’s prosecution sheds light on quite a few important barriers and criticisms that the International Criminal Court has faced in the past. In line with lseyferth and Micaela’s arguments, the case against Simone Gbagbo indicates a shift in gender lines. As the first female to be indicted by the International Criminal Courts, this case represents an important point in history for the ICC in regards to gender lines and sends a message to the rest of the world that woman perpetrators will be held accountable by the same standards as their male counterparts. However, I believe this is not the only landmark message this case sends. Moving beyond gender, I think the more notable aspect of this indictment is that Simone Gbagbo did not hold an official government position and the extent of her charges.

    An article published in the Atlantic states, “Simone Gbagbo’s indictment includes charges of rape and sexual violence as a crime against humanity. That aspect of the indictment marks an important shift in the uneasy relationship between sexual violence and international criminal justice.” Not only was a female indicted, but she is being indicted on accounts of rape and sexual violence, which have long been associated with male perpetrators.

    Further, Simone Gbagbo’s position is also a point of interest. She only held the position of wife of former President Laurent Gbagbo and yet has been charged with crimes similar to those that her husband, the President, has been charged with. I completely agree with the Atlantic’s thoughts that, “the case’s most important legacy may instead be the ICC’s new willingness to look beyond formal governmental and military hierarchies in identifying those most responsible for serious international crimes.”

    For the reasons stated above, along with several others, the prosecution of Simone Gbagbo is groundbreaking in many ways. Her gender, position and the nature of the crimes she is being charged sends a strong signal to the rest of the world of the capacity of the International Criminal Courts.

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