ICC takes more time to build case against Ivory Coast's Gbagbo

AMSTERDAM Mon Jun 3, 2013 2:54pm EDT

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague February 19, 2013. REUTERS/ Michael Kooren

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Michael Kooren

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday gave prosecutors until November to rescue their case against former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, saying the evidence submitted so far was not strong enough to merit a trial.

Prosecutors now have until November 15 to carry out further investigations in a case that is testing the ICC's credibility after a string of collapsed prosecutions and criticisms from African leaders who accuse the court of targeting Africans.

Gbagbo, 68, the only ex-head of state to have appeared at the court, is accused of plunging his country into civil war instead of relinquishing power after losing elections in 2010.

In their ruling, judges said the evidence was not strong enough to allow the case to move to trial, but not weak enough for them to throw out the charges. Gbagbo will remain in detention in the Netherlands.

The judges said prosecutors could refine their case in six areas, including looking more closely at the organizational structure of pro-Gbagbo forces during the conflict and at alleged cases of sexual violence.

In a blow to the ICC's reputation earlier this year, prosecutors dropped charges against Kenyan civil servant Francis Muthaura. Judges also acquitted the Congolese warlord Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. Both men faced crimes against humanity charges.

Ethiopian President Hailemariam Desalegn has accused the court of racial bias and of targeting Africans for prosecution, an allegation the court has always rejected.

In another high-profile case on Monday, the ICC said the trial of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto would start on September 10, later than initially planned, to allow his lawyers more time to prepare their defence.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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