May 20, 2011 / 5:42 PM / 9 years ago

ICC prosecutor applies to investigate Ivory Coast violence

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court said on Friday its prosecutor had applied to investigate Ivory Coast’s post-election violence in which thousands of people have been killed and more than a million displaced.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Alassane Ouattara following the November 28 election, triggering months of violence and economic havoc in the world’s top cocoa-producing country.

A formal investigation by the ICC is likely to focus on reports of violations by Gbagbo’s side as he struggled to retain power, but could also open Ouattara’s camp — including former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, the current prime minister — to scrutiny.

Human rights groups have accused Gbagbo’s fighters of using heavy weapons against civilians, but have also accused Ouattara’s forces of killing, raping and looting during their southward sweep from their northern stronghold to the coast.

Gbagbo was captured on April 11 after heavy fighting in the West African country’s main city Abidjan, which included U.N. and French strikes on Gbagbo’s heavy weapons stockpiles.

Ouattara wrote to ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo this month asking for ICC to investigate reported abuses.

The ICC said on Friday in a statement that “after a preliminary examination, the ICC Prosecutor concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed in (Ivory Coast) since 28 November 2010.”

While Ivory Coast is not one of the member countries covered by ICC, it has accepted the jurisdiction of the war crimes court.

Human rights investigators have confirmed reports of several mass graves, and security remains fragile in the West, where thousands of people remain refugees fearing ethnically-driven violence.

Reporting by Sara Webb; Editing by Maria Golovnina

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