Simone Ehivet Gbagbo was born on 20 June 1949 in Moossou, in Ivory Coast. She was a professor of literature, a trade unionist and an Ivorian politician. From 2000 to 2010 she was the First Lady of Ivory Coast and played an active role in national politics.
Following the result of the presidential elections on 28 November 2010, a post election crisis arose between her husband Laurent Gbagbo and his political opponent, Alassane Ouattara. Pro-Gbagbo forces, essentially constituted of the Ivorian Defense and Security Forces (DFS), young militias and mercenaries, were accused of having perpetrated murders, rape and other forms of sexual violence against the civilian population in Abidjan and in the west of the country. This post-electoral violence, which was reportedly aimed at followers of Ouattara and at specific ethnic and religious communities, continued until May 2011. According to the Prosecutor, these attacks by pro-Gbagbo forces were committed pursuant to a common plan between Laurent Gbargo and his inner circle.
Simone Gbagbo, who was extremely influential within the State machinery, was allegedly involved in this common plan. She was reported to have frequently taken part in meetings with close advisors of Laurent Gbagbo and highly placed officials of DFS to discuss the implementation and coordination of this plan. She was also said to have publicly defended this plan during political gatherings. Furthermore, as a member of Laurent Gbagbo’s inner circle, she was said to have exercised joint control over the crimes by having the power to control and give instructions directly to the youth militia who were systematically recruited, armed, trained and integrated into the FDS chain of command with a view to supporting the implementation of the common plan.
On 11 April 2011, Simone Gbagbo and her husband Laurent Gbagbo were arrested by the pro Ouattara Republican Armed Forces of the Ivory Coast (FRCI), assisted by the UN Peacekeeping Forces in the Ivory Coast (ONUCI) and the French Licorne Forces. After first being held in detention with her husband in a hotel in Abidjan, Simone Gbagbo was subsequently transferred to Odienne in the north of the country where she was put under house arrest.
Following Ivory Coast’s declarations accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 14 December 2010 and 3 May 2011, confirming a previous declaration dated 18 April 2003, and judging that the necessary conditions to conduct investigations relevant to the case were in place, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, on 23 June 2011, presented a request for authorization to open up an investigation proprio motu. The Pre-Trial Chamber granted this request on 3 October 2011.