Ivory Coast opens war crimes trial against ex-leader's wife

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 4:56 PM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast's highest criminal court opened its trial Tuesday against former first lady Simone Gbagbo for crimes against humanity for her alleged role in 2010-2011 postelection abuses that led to the deaths of thousands.

Human rights groups representing 250 victims and civil parties question the trial's credibility, saying they refuse to participate. The International Federation for Human Rights and two local rights groups have questioned investigations and said they have not been properly involved in the legal proceedings.

More than 3,000 people were killed after ex-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat to now President Alassane Ouattara. The prosecution said Simone Gbagbo participated in a committee that organized abuses against Ouattara supporters after 2010 elections.

Simone Gbagbo has been in custody since April 2011. She has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, but Ivory Coast has refused to transfer her.

Judges at the ICC in December 2014 and May 2015 concluded the investigation into Simone's role in human rights crimes had not made sufficient progress, rejecting Ivory Coast's request to retain jurisdiction over her case, Human Rights Watch said.

"Simone Gbagbo's trial - the first in Ivory Coast for crimes against humanity - should be an opportunity for victims of pro-Gbagbo forces to learn the truth about her alleged role in abuses," said Jim Wormington, HRW's West Africa researcher. "But unless the trial is credible and fair, the hopes of victims will be short-lived."

President Ouattara in April 2015 said Ivory Coast would handle future postelection violence-related trials related. The state has also indicted several high-level pro-Ouattara commanders.

Simone has already been tried, and in Marcy 2015 was found guilty for offenses against the state and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Former President Gbagbo's trial at The Hague began in January.

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Carley Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.