Ivory Coast said Friday it would not transfer former first lady Simone Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but would try her at home instead.
The decision came 18 months after the ICC issued a warrant for her arrest over suspected crimes against humanity, charges which her husband and former president Laurent Gbagbo is also facing.
Ivory Coast’s cabinet decided to file a “motion to dismiss” the warrant. Her husband also awaits trial in The Hague over months of deadly violence that followed 2010 polls.
“The decision of the cabinet aims to have Mrs Gbagbo brought to trial… by Ivorian courts whose good reputation has been restored and which can hold a fair trial that will guarantee the rights of the defence,” said a government statement.
The government will inform the ICC of its decision shortly, the statement added.
Ivory Coast turned over Laurent Gbagbo to the ICC in late 2011 but now seems inclined to try other suspects in the 2010-11 unrest under its own jurisdiction.
“If we had the slightest doubt about the fairness of the Ivorian legal system, we would have extradited her to the Netherlands,” government spokesman Bruno Kone told AFP.
The former president’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party welcomed the decision, expressing hope that it was “made with the sole aim of delivering… justice that is to the benefit of all.”
But the former first lady’s lawyer, Habiba Toure, expressed concerns about her client’s “arbitrary and unjustified detention.”
The lawyer said Simone Gbagbo was suffering from “serious health problems” and could not be treated properly under detention.
Simone Gbagbo was detained at Odienne in the country’s northwest after the post-election crisis caused by her husband’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat in the November 2010 presidential elections.
The post-poll violence left around 3,000 people dead in the west African country, which is the world’s number one cocoa producer.
The former first lady, who was born in 1949, is also under investigation for suspected genocide, harming state security and white-collar crimes.
Last month, an Abidjan court released on bail 14 close aides to Gbagbo, including his son Michel.
Gbagbo’s supporters accuse President Alassane Ouattara, the winner of the 2010 election, of carrying out “victor’s justice” as no one from his own camp has had to face prosecution.
Ivory Coast has become the second African country to refuse to cooperate with the ICC in just two weeks.
Kenyan lawmakers backed a motion on September 6 to pull out of the ICC, just ahead of the trial of Vice President William Ruto at the world court.
Ruto is on trial on three counts of crimes against humanity. He is accused of having organised 2007-2008 post-election unrest that killed at least 1,100 people and forced more than 600,000 people to flee their homes. – AFP