International Justice

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Ivory Coast’s ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo in court debut

Former President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast refused to accept the 2010 election results, sparking violence that resulted in more than 3,000 deaths. The former president is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court. His wife, former first lady Simone Gbagbo recently spent her first day in court in the Ivory Coast. She stands trial accused of undermining state security for her role in the post-election violence.

While some have called for the transfer of Simone Gbagbo to the Hague as well, the Ivorian judiciary has insisted that the first lady and other key players in the violence stand trial in their homeland. Since the ICC is supposed to be a court of last resort, it is interesting that some actors in the situation will be tried in the ICC while others stand trial in the country where the crimes were committed. Victims of the violence like this; a niece of a victim is quoted as saying “we are here for justice to be done”. Ownership is important in these situations.

Further, the mandate of the ICC calls for complementarity; if a national court system is pursuing a case fairly and well, the ICC should not intervene. Thus, why is the former president not tried in the Ivory Coast when they seem to be handling other cases from the same situation well? However, questions have arisen about the impartiality of the court. As can maybe be expected, the former first lady has accused the Ivorian court of being guilty of “victors justice”- although reports of violence and atrocity initiated by the opposition exist, nobody from that side has been indicted for anything.

Articles here and here


4 responses to “Ivory Coast’s ex-first lady Simone Gbagbo in court debut

  1. swashington February 23, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    I think that one of the most interesting aspects of this case is the fact that Simone Gbagbo is the first woman to be indicted by the ICC. Although gender is rarely brought up in the case of violators of international law, it makes an important statement that she is the first woman to be viewed as powerful enough to have a role in these crimes. At the same time, she is still thought of as an accomplice/supporter of her husband’s crimes. An article from The Atlantic makes the statement that this precedent has led to the image of women as perpetual victims in the eyes of international criminal law. I would agree with this statement, and add that this perpetuation could lead to a lack of justice for victims if the female perpetrators of crimes are not held to the same standard of accountability as their male counterparts.

    The Atlantic article:

  2. anisalarochelle February 24, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I agree with the claims made by SWashington about the fact that Simone Gbagbo is the first woman indicted by the ICC. Because there are fewer females in political and militaristic positions worldwide, it is obviously less likely for females to be indicted. But, the fact that Simone is the first woman indicted by the ICC demonstrates the immaturity of the ICC as the Rwandan tribunal indicted a woman over a decade ago. Additionally, I think it is interesting that they targeted Simone Gbagbo as it seems the “wife of Laurent Gbagbo” would not be considered a “big fish” in the larger political and militaristic scheme, the purpose of the ICC being to indict top officials.
    It is interesting that the ICC charged Ghagbo with rape and sexual violence as forms of crimes against humanity. This brings up a touchy subject because people usually associate women as being the victims in rape situation, yet the perpetrator in this case is a woman. Furthermore, highlighting the immaturity of the ICC and societal views that men are the perpetrators of rape, women that may have committed these atrocities may have been skipped over, due to lack of awareness. Additionally after a successful case for victims of rape, though justice may have been granted, the emotional affects will keep with the person their entire life, which may create an opportunity for ICC outreach.

  3. mcurle15 February 26, 2015 at 10:06 am

    I can understand the reasoning behind why Ivory Coast is not sending Simone Gbagbo to The Hague to face trial under ICC jurisdiction. Since Simone was the wife of the former head of state, and held no official legal position, she is not considered a “big fish” in the eyes of the smaller domestic courts. Although she was most likely aware of her husband’s charges of murder, rape, and persecution, the Ivorian judiciary system is still not handing Simone over to the ICC. Simone was charged for attempting to undermine the security of state, so most likely she will be tried locally due to the fact that the court is both willing and able. Therefore, the ICC, being a court of last resort, cannot interfere with the Ivory Coast judicial system. So while her husband Lauren Gbagbo was handed over to the ICC, Simone will be tried locally, and will potentially face a trial that is impartial. While I do find Simone Gbagbo guilty, I do agree with her that this is a case of victor’s justice. There were crimes committed from the post-election violence done by Gbagbo and Outtara. However, since Outtara defeated Gbagbo, no accountability is administered for Outtara’s forces. I think that this is a clear case of victor’s justice and shows the power dynamic that is established after conflicts are resolved. Authority goes straight to the winner and the guidelines that decipher what is deemed “right” and “wrong” in a time of war/conflict for the loser are completely subjective. Is it better to prosecute one side that crosses the line in war, rather than none? Or should both sides be prosecuted no matter who wins the war if crimes against humanity were committed? If both sides are prosecuted, however, both sides will most likely plead not guilty, so will the conflict ever truly resolve?

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