The trial of former Cote d’Ivoire’s president Laurent Gbagbo is set to begin at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today.
Gbagbo is facing charges relating to the country’s conflict that erupted after he lost the elections in 2010 to Alassane Ouattara.
He is the first former president to stand before the ICC.
The trial aims to “uncover the truth”, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told reporters at The Hague.
Both Mr Gbagbo and his co-accused, former militia leader Charles Ble Goude, say they are innocent.
“The trial is an opportunity for reconciliation,” Mr Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit said. “It is for this reason that he awaits it with confidence.”
This may prove to be the most important trial in the ICC’s history. The international court was established to end impunity and bring the most powerful leaders to justice. The first appearance of a former head of state is testament to the prosecutor’s reach. And yet, despite casualties on both sides, not one of President Alassane Ouattara’s supporters has been charged, leading to accusations of victor’s justice.
Gbagbo ignited a wave of violence in Cote d’Ivoire after he refused to step down following his loss to Alasssane Ouattara in the 2010 polls.
Around 300 people lost their lives in the conflict that ensued.
Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 by forces loyal to President Ouattara, backed by French troops, and later in that year, he was extradited to The Hague.