Simone Ehivet Gbagbo

14.04.2016 ( Last modified: 27.03.2018 )
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facts

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.

legal procedure

PROCEDURE BEFORE THE ICC

On 3 October 2011, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation with respect to crimes allegedly committed by both sides in Ivory Coast since 28 November 2010. This was later expanded to crimes committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010.

On 7 February 2012, a request to issue an arrest warrant against Simone Gbagbo was lodged by the Chief Prosecutor. A few days later, on 29 February, the said warrant was issued under seal, the seal being removed on 22 November 2012.

Simone Gbagbo was charged, as an indirect co-perpetrator, for four counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Ivory Coast between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.The counts listed involve murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, acts of persecution and other inhumane acts.

On 20 September 2013, Ivory Coast elected to dismiss the ICC’s arrest warrant, deciding instead to bring Simone Gbagbo to trial before the Ivorian courts, which, according to the government, are perfectly equipped to stage a fair trial guaranteeing the rights of the defence.

Furthermore, on 1 October 2013, Ivory Coast submitted a request for inadmissibility of the case against Simone Gbagbo. On 11 December 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber I rejected the admissibility challenge, and reminded Ivory Coast of its obligation to surrender Simone Gbagbo to the Court without delay. On 27 May 2015 the Appeals Chamber upheld this decision.

Until Simone Gbagbo is transferred to the ICC, the case will remain in the Pre-Trial stage.

FIRST TRIAL BEFORE THE IVORIAN COURTS

Shortly after the end of the post-election crisis, the Ivorian government established a Special Investigation Unit in charge of investigating the most serious crimes committed during this period and sending their perpetrators to trial.

On 10 July 2013, Simone Gbagbo and eighty-two others were charged with attempting to undermine the security of the state, setting up armed groups, taking part in an insurrection movement, disturbing the public order, tribalism, and xenophobia.

After two years of investigations, Simone Gbagbo was transferred to Abidjan where her trial began on 26 December 2014 before the Criminal Court of Abidjan. Most charges were dropped because of the lack of evidence and she was therefore only charged with undermining state security.

During the proceedings, Simone Gbagbo asserted that she was acting for the benefit of the legitimate and democratically elected party of Ivory Coast, and denied witness accounts accusing her of distributing weapons to the pro-Gbagbo death squads.

On 10 March 2015, the tribunal of Abidjan found Simone Gbagbo guilty, and sentenced her to 20 years of prison, the maximum penalty for the crime she was charged with.

The trial against Gbagbo has been denounced by many stakeholders, including Human Rights Watch, for failing to meet the requirements of a fair trial. The trial has also been highly criticized in so far as it only issued a condemnation for a crime perpetrated against the State, and did not render justice for the 3’000 victims of the post-electoral crisis.

Simone Gbagbo filed an appeal before the Court of Cassation. The appeal was dismissed on 26 May 2015.

SECOND TRIAL BEFORE IVORIAN COURTS

The second trial against Simone Gbagbo started before the Criminal Court in Abidjan on 31 May 2016.

From the outset of the trial, three Human Rights organisations − the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Ivorian Human Rights Movement (MIDH) and Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO) − representing 250 victims and civil parties announced they would not participate in the trial. They argued that the trial was held in a hurry and that victims’ rights had been violated, casting doubts about the credibility of the trial.

Gbagbo was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. She pleaded not guilty.

On 28 March 2017, the Criminal Court in Abidjan acquitted Gbagbo of all charges.