However, the opening in 2003 of an ICC preliminary examination of potential ICC crimes was made possible through a special mechanism under the Rome Statute for non-states parties to accept ICC jurisdiction – the first occasion it was used. Originally submitted by President Laurent Gbagbo, the Article 12(3) declaration was reaffirmed by Allasane Ouattara when he assumed the presidency in 2011. Later that year, ICC judges authorized the opening of a full investigation into crimes against humanity arising from the country’s disputed elections, with both Gbagbo and Ouattara camps suspected of the commission of grave crimes. Judges subsequently authorized the expansion of the investigation to cover the period 2002-2010.
The prosecutor has to date brought cases against Gbagbo and his inner circle. In 2016, Gbagbo became the first former head of state to be tried at the ICC. Civil society continues to call for ICC prosecutions on all sides of the political divide and for more national prosecutions of lower level perpetrators and reparations to victims of the post-election violence.
First state to accept ICC jurisdiction as a non-member
Côte d’Ivoire signed the Rome Statute in 1998 but did not formally ratify the Court’s founding treaty until 2013. In 2003, Côte d’Ivoire became the first state to accept the Court’s jurisdiction through a special mechanism for non-ICC member states under Article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute. Côte d'Ivoire reaffirmed its acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction through two separate communications to the ICC in 2010 and 2011. Full ratification, and implementation, of the Rome Statute came in 2013 after years of civil society advocacy.
ICC prosecutor investigates Côte d’Ivoire 2010-11 post-election violence
After conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in Côte d'Ivoire from 2003 onward, the ICC prosecutor independently requested a formal investigation (proprio motu request). In 2004, ICC pre-trial judges authorized the prosecutor to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed following the country's disputed presidential election of 28 November 2010. It was the second time that the prosecutor had opened an investigation on a proprio motu basis.
ICC arrest warrants for Gbagbo camp
In the first cases opened by the ICC, the prosecutor alleges that Laurent Gbagbo and his inner circle, including former first lady Simone Gbagbo and youth leader Charles Blé Goudé, created and executed a common plan to hold on to power after losing the 2010 presidential election by encouraging attacks on the supporters of president-elect Alassane Ouattara. The Gbagbo-Blé Goudé ICC trial began in 2016. Simone Gbagbo was convicted by an Ivorian court but remains wanted by the ICC.
Investigative timeframe extended back to 2002
In February 2012, at the request of ICC judges, the ICC prosecutor provided additional information on potential crimes committed in the context of Côte d’Ivoire’s civil war during the years 2002-2010. Based on their assessment of this information, the judges expanded authorization for the investigation to cover the period from 19 September 2002 to 28 November 2010. They considered that the violent events in Côte d’Ivoire during this period (including relevant events since 28 November 2010) formed a single situation, in which an ongoing political crisis and power-struggle culminated in the events that the Pre-Trial Chamber had earlier authorized the prosecutor to investigate.
A complicated path to national justice
In 2003, the Ivorian Constitutional Court ruled that the Rome Statute was incompatible with the constitution. In 2012, parliament finally passed legislation amending the constitution, leading to ratification of the Rome Statute the following year.
In 2014, the Ivorian Parliament adopted amendments to bring the country’s criminal and criminal procedure codes into line with the Rome Statute. While the amendments allow prosecution of ICC crimes and in fact define war crimes more broadly than the Rome Statute does, they do not include any provisions to strengthen cooperation with the ICC. The legislation enables impunity through escape clauses that provide immunity based on official capacity and the possibility of presidential pardon.
In March 2015, former first lady Simone Gbagbo was convicted of charges related to undermining state security by an Ivorian court and sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.. ICC judges, however, believe the national proceedings still do not reflect the gravity of the charges at the ICC and have ruled that Simone Gbagbo should be transferred to The Hague to face trial
Civil society groups have also supported cases in national courts for victims and communities that the ICC has not been able to accommodate.
Civil society in Côte d’Ivoire
The Côte d’Ivoire Coalition for the ICC is one of the most active national civil society networks working to advance justice for grave international crimes. Through a range of awareness-raising activities along with advocacy with national and international actors, the Côte d’Ivoire Coalition successfully campaigned for ratification and partial implementation of the Rome Statute. The Coalition continues to work with the government to reform the national judicial system’s capacity to prosecute grave international crimes and cooperate with the ICC.
One sided justice?
Civil society, including global and local Ivorian organizations, urge the ICC and Ivorian government to ensure all sides to the conflict are prosecuted for grave crimes. The prosecutor has repeatedly emphasized that investigations are ongoing, and therefore, all of those responsible for the crimes will be held accountable.
The Coalition and various members have warned that a lack of local ICC presence and outreach in the country would deepen already highly polarized public opinion in the country.