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Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo has today been charged with murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts by the International Criminal Court.
The crimes were allegedly committed as his backers fought to keep him in power last year.
Gbagbo is the first former head of state taken into custody by the court in The Hague, Netherlands, since it was established in 2002.
‘Mr Gbagbo is brought to account for his individual responsibility in the attacks against civilians committed by forces acting on his behalf,’ prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.
‘He is presumed innocent until proven guilty and will be given full rights and the opportunity to defend himself.’
Mr Moreno-Ocampo stressed that both sides of the political divide in Ivory Coast committed crimes in the post-election chaos and that his investigation was continuing.
‘We will collect evidence impartially and independently, and bring further cases before the judges, irrespective of political affiliation,’ he said.
‘Leaders must understand that violence is no longer an option to retain or gain power. The time of impunity for these crimes is over.’
A convoy of cars whisked Gbagbo to the court’s detention unit close to the North Sea, following an overnight flight that arrived in the Netherlands shortly before 4am (3am GMT).
A filing posted on the court’s website early today says he is charged with murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts during violence which erupted after he refused to accept defeat in last year’s presidential election and nearly plunged the country into civil war.