ICC Prosecutor Puts Ivorian Leaders on Notice

Yesterday, a government official loyal to the internationally unrecognized incumbent president of Cote D’Ivoire issued a not-so-subtle threat to the life of a rival politician. From the New York Times.

At a boisterous rally on Monday attended by thousands of people, Charles Blé Goudé, one of Mr. Gbagbo’s ministers who is also the leader of a militant youth group and is under United Nations sanctions for acts of violence, threatened to hunt down Mr. Ouattara’s prime minister, Guillaume Soro. “I’m going to go get him, where he’s hiding out,” Mr. Blé Goudé said. “Are you ready?” The crowd roared its approval.

Like clockwork, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court put Mr. Goude on notice.

“First, let me be clear: I have not yet opened an investigation. But, if serious crimes under my jurisdiction are committed, I will do so. For instance, if as a consequence of Mr. Charles Blé Goudé’s speeches, there is massive violence, he could be prosecuted.

Secondly, if UN peacekeepers or UN forces are attacked, this could be prosecuted as a different crime.

I think African states play a critical role in this, to find a solution to the problem. But if no solution can be found and crimes are committed, African states could be willing to refer the case to my Office and also provide forces to arrest those individuals who commit the crimes in Côte d’Ivoire.

Therefore, violence is not an option. Those leaders who are planning violence will end up in the Hague”.

I’m doubtful that the threat of prosecution will be a sufficient deterrent to escalating violence.  Still, it’s helpful to know that the piling on continues.  ECOWAS, which has already recognized Ouattara as the rightful winner of last month’s election, is apparently next.

In the meantime, the humanitarian consequences of this crisis are beginning to show.  The UN Refugee Agency says that between 6,000 and 6,200 people, mostly women and children, are have fled to neighboring Liberia.  The Refugee Agency is also preparing for as many as 300,000 refugees.  Amnesty International, meanwhile, is receiving “a growing number of reports” of abductions like this one:

On the evening of 16 December, a few hours after a march organized by supporters of Alassane Ouattara was violently suppressed by security forces, eyewitnesses saw Drissa Yahou Ali and Konan Rochlin kidnapped from their homes in the area called Avocatiers, in Abobo, a neighbourhood of Abidjan.

An eyewitness told Amnesty International: “Around 7pm, a black Mercedes stopped in front of our compound. People wearing black T-shirts and military pants entered the courtyard and asked for Drissa. They took him and Rochlin and went away.”

Their bodies were found two days later in the Yopougon morgue.

Amnesty reports that supporters of Gbagbo are also being subjected to violence.

The situation is very near the point of spiraling out of control.