Without information, no reconciliation

I.Coast's former first lady to go on trial May 31

1 min 19Approximate reading time

Ivory Coast's former first lady Simone Gbagbo will be tried on charges of crimes against humanity on May 31 related to a wave of violence after elections in 2010, court officials said Monday.

The date was announced at a hearing in the financial capital Abijdan which took place several weeks after a court rejected her appeal to have the case dropped.

Wearing a brown dress, her grey hair cut short, Gbagbo was cheered by her supporters as she entered the courtroom. One of 13 defendants, she was the only one who was not handcuffed, an AFP correspondent said.

Smiling, she waved as she took her place in the dock. At the end of the hearing, she even embraced several supporters but refused to speak to the press.

Nicknamed the "Iron Lady", the 66-year-old had already been sentenced to 20 years in jail last year for "attacking state authority" for her role in violence following presidential elections in 2010 which her husband Laurent Gbagbo lost to the country's current leader Alassane Ouattara.

She is the subject of a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague which accuses her of a key role in the post-election unrest which left more than 3,000 people dead.

At Monday's hearing, her lawyers denounced the composition of the jury, saying it was stacked against their client.

"Up to 95 percent of the jurors are people from the (mainly Muslim) north or are part of the Mandinka (ethnic group) and Mrs Gbagbo is on trial for having people from the north killed," lawyer Ange Rodrigue Dadje told reporters, warning that the jurors could come under "pressure".

"If somebody says this is not a problem, I disagree."

After the eruption of civil war in 2002, which effectively divided the country along north-south lines, Ivory Coast was plagued by ethnic and religious divisions between the mainly Christian south and the largely Muslim north.

But in a further sign of the west African country bouncing back from turmoil, the UN Security Council last month lifted the remaining sanctions on Ivory Coast and said it would shut down its peacekeeping mission there next year.

Sign up to the newsletter