THE HAGUE, Netherlands >> International Criminal Court judges authorized an investigation today into violence that left some 3,000 people dead after Ivory Coast’s disputed presidential election last year.
The announcement signals the start of the court’s seventh investigation, all of them in Africa.
The violence erupted after former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara after losing the election last November.
Ouattara finally took office in May and asked the international court to investigate crimes committed by both sides during the postelection crisis.
Monday’s decision came less than a week after Ivory Coast’s new government launched a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission that aims to find peace in the aftermath of the violence.
Judges approved Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s request to open an investigation into crimes committed since Nov. 28, 2010. They also asked the prosecutor to send them within a month information on possible crimes committed in Ivory Coast between 2002 and 2010, signaling they may yet broaden the scope of the investigation to include earlier violence.
Ivory Coast was once one of Africa’s most prosperous nations but has been crippled by a decade of conflict which started with a 1999 coup, followed by flawed 2000 elections which first brought Gbagbo to power. He failed to hold elections five years later.
When another five years was up last November, he refused to accept his electoral defeat, setting off a five-month-long crisis that turned the once-chic commercial capital of Abidjan into a war zone.
While the chaos and violence was first triggered by the 1999 coup, the International Criminal Court can only investigate crimes committed since it came into existence in 2002.