Côte d’Ivoire: International Criminal Court May Initiate Probe Into Alleged Crimes

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–6 April 2011 – The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today said it may open investigations into the “widespread and systematic” killings in Côte d’Ivoire, including the reported mass murder of civilians, saying it is gathering information on alleged crimes by all parties to the conflict.

“The OTP [office of the prosecutor] has been conducting a preliminary examination in Ivory Coast and the next step will be for the Prosecutor to use his independent… power to request authorization from the pre-trial chamber in order to initiate an investigation,” the ICC said in a statement.

Troops loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who has defied demands to stand down after he lost the United Nations-certified election last November to Alassane Ouattara, have been engaged in fierce fighting with forces loyal to Mr. Ouattara.

The pro-Ouattara forces have stepped up their efforts in recent days to force Mr. Gbagbo out of power.

Senior UN officials have warned about the humanitarian impact of the fighting, which has displaced up to 1 million civilians and killed hundreds of people.

Côte d’Ivoire is not a State party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, but as president, Mr. Gbagbo accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. Mr. Ouattara has also confirmed his acceptance of ICC jurisdiction by letter and provided information to the prosecutor’s office, according to the statement.

“However, to expedite the process, if a State party of the Rome Statute refers Ivory Coast to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the Office of the Prosecutor can proceed faster with an investigation and start to prepare a request for an arrest warrant for those most responsible for crimes in Ivory Coast,” the Court said.