* Simon Gbagbo accused of crimes against humanity
* Warrant says she planned and executed post-election
By Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, Nov 22 The International Criminal Court
has issued an arrest warrant for Ivory Coast's former first lady
Simone Gbagbo, accusing her of crimes against humanity committed
during the West African nation's post-election conflict last
The warrant, which was issued on February 29 but remained
sealed until Thursday, alleges she was "criminally responsible
for murder, rape, other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane
acts, and persecution".
A copy of the warrant was seen by Reuters.
Rights groups said risks deepening the widespread perception
of winner's justice as no forces loyal to the current government
have been arrested despite evidence of crimes being committed on
both sides. Reconciliation efforts have lagged as a result.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept
defeat in a late 2010 election triggered the brief war, is
already in The Hague awaiting trial on similar charges.
Violent street protests slipped into all-out combat between
soldiers and militias loyal to Gbagbo and fighters supporting
current President Alassane Ouattara, who received the backing of
United Nations and French troops.
More than 3,000 people died in the conflict.
The warrant accuses Simone Gbagbo, who is currently in
custody in Ivory Coast, of participating in the planning and
orchestration of the violence.
"Simone Gbagbo was ideologically and professionally very
close to her husband ... Although unelected, she behaved as the
alter ego of her husband, exercising power and taking state
decision," the warrant said.
"There are reasonable grounds to believe that the pro-Gbagbo
forces who executed the common plan, did so in obeying in an
almost automatic way orders received from Simone Gbagbo," it
Ivory Coast is not party to the Rome Statue, the treaty
which founded the court, but it granted the ICC jurisdiction for
crimes committed during the post-election violence.
The government did not immediately say whether it planned to
extradite Simone Gbagbo, who was arrested along with her husband
in April 2011 as fighting came to an end and is currently being
held under house arrest in the northwestern city of Odienne.
She is due to be tried in Ivory Coast on genocide charges.
"We've just been informed of this. We will now examine the
situation and take a decision," government spokesman Bruno Kone
Authorities arrested around 100 pro-Gbagbo fighters and
political figures last year, and have been accused of illegal
detentions and abuse targeting his suspected supporters in
recent months. [ID:nL5E8MI5FF}
None of Ouattara's own supporters have yet been arrested for
crimes during the post-election violence, though rights groups
say there is evidence they too committed atrocities.
Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC's former prosecutor, said
earlier this year he was extending investigations back to 2002,
when a failed coup ignited Ivory Coast's decade-long crisis and
would look into crimes committed by both camps.
Rights campaigner Human Rights Watch on Thursday welcomed
the ICC's decision to indict Simone Gbagbo, but said it must be
followed up with action against Ouattara's own supporters.
"The continued one-sided justice domestically and at the ICC
ignores many of the conflict's victims and threatens to further
divide the country," said Matt Wells, West Africa researcher
with Human Rights Watch.
The ICC's prosecutor said more arrest warrants might come.
"The Office of the Prosecutor is continuing its
investigations of all crimes allegedly committed by all sides,"
said Fatou Bensouda.
"Additional requests for arrest warrants will be submitted
to the judges once we have collected enough evidence to
substantiate the allegations," she said.