By Saliou Samb
CONAKRY (Reuters) - Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara rejected accusations that he had imposed "victors' justice" on his civil war rival by transferring him to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Former president Laurent Gbagbo was flown from Ivory Coast to the Netherlands on Wednesday and put in a detention center in The Hague, making him the first former head of state to face trial by the global court since its inception in 2002.
Gbagbo faces charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape.
About 3,000 people were killed and more than a million displaced in a four-month civil war after Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara in an election he lost late last year.
"Some want to accuse us of victors' justice, but this is nothing more than impartial, international justice," Ouattara told journalists late on Thursday night during a visit to Guinea, pointing out that there was a standing ICC warrant for Gbagbo's arrest.
"The judges of the International Criminal Court will make known their decision and that is the decision that will be implemented," he said.
Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party has said his transfer was a political humiliation and called on its supporters to "regroup for imminent action," though there have been no protests so far.
"It was done in the greatest discretion. There were no images of Gbagbo in handcuffs, we respected his dignity as an Ivorian and as a former head of state," Ouattara said.
Gbagbo's trial is nonetheless likely to divide a nation already bitterly at odds over land and identity issues between its mercantile, largely Muslim peoples in the semi-arid north and its Christian farming communities in the forested south.
Some human rights groups asked why fighters for Ouattara had not also been arrested, despite evidence they too committed abuses, and Gbagbo's supporters have said such selective justice
effectively scuppers all chance of reconciliation.
Ouattara said he still sought rapprochement. "We are brothers and sisters of the country, so we have no other choice but to reconcile. My hand remains extended out to them."