Wednesday, June 01, 2016

"Human Rights Groups" Withdraw From Political Prosecution Against Simone Gbagbo
Simone Gbagbo’s ‘rap sheet‘ is quite full and pretty daunting, depending on where you’re standing. The former First “Iron” Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, who has already been served a 20-year jail sentence and remains in detention over her role in the country’s post-election violence in 2010, currently stands accused of crimes against humanity, prisoners of war, and against the civilian population in her second trial since 2015.

Within the month of June, at least 25 witnesses are expected to testify against Gbagbo at the Cour d’Assises, the highest criminal court in Côte d’Ivoire. She is being tried for overseeing the violent activities that occurred between 2010 and 2011 after her husband, former President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to leave the office and make way for the newly elected president, Alassane Ouattara. The events that followed the belligerent decision left around 3,000 Ivoirians dead.

The hundreds of victims left after the post-election mayhem, piqued the interest and support of human rights groups, including the Human Rights Watch (HRW), that agreed to represent them in court for the duration of Simone Gbagbo’s trial. However, as the event drew closer, the credibility of the investigations carried out against the “Iron Lady” became a topic of concern for the rights groups. Following these raised concerns, several human rights groups involved have withdrawn their participation from the proceedings which began yesterday.

According to the observations of HRW, International Federation for Human Rights, and two leading Ivoirian rights groups, the investigations leading up to the trial were concluded prematurely, and thus did not provide a full and transparent picture of Gbagbo’s role in the human rights abuses that took place between 2010 and 2011.

Holding the trial in Côte d’Ivoire, as opposed to initial suggestions to take it to the International Criminal Court (ICC), might be allowing the present Outtara-led government to influence the decisions of the judiciary, based on the history of both parties. This is due to the fact that the group’s lawyers claim that they have not had the right amount of access to all the proceedings concerning Gbagbo.

Gbagbo’s first day in court yesterday mainly consisted of her lawyers contesting the fact that she was being tried for events that occurred as far back as 2011, when it only recently became official to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as her denying the charges brought up against her. Human rights groups hope that the outcome of the trial will be fair and indeed prove to the international community that African judiciaries can handle their own.

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