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No one is safe – fortunately


28. January brought trial against former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. It is the first time a former state host has been tried for the world's only permanent international criminal court.
Together with the youth party leader Charles Blé Goude, Gbagbo is charged, suspected of staging criminal acts against the human race. This should have happened in connection with the riots following the election in 2010 – 2011, where about 3000 people were killed and many thousands injured.
The lawsuit represents a very important milestone in the development of an international rule of law and in order to do justice to the worst crime we can imagine that human beings are capable of performing. Thus, it is also an important milestone for the development of a global democratic society and for peace and security.

Important. When the ICC was established in 1998 and entered into force in 2002, the world had for the first time a permanent institution that, on its own initiative or on behalf of the UN or its member state, could investigate and prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes or crimes against human race. At one point, the state was no longer the only relevant legal entity in international law.
The explosive power in this can hardly be stressed enough. The ICC is – and should be used as – one of the most important tools the world has had in preventing, preventing or drastically reducing deaths and destruction as a result of war and conflict.
The question of bringing former and sitting prime ministers and cabinet members to court has been highly controversial. Between others, a recurring objection is that this makes it more difficult to obtain peace resolutions in conflict regions, because the state leaders have less incentive to agree to prosecution.

The truth is brutal, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

Nonetheless, this is a pillar of the ICC Treaty, which until now has been ratified by 123 states – close to two-thirds of the entire international community of national states. And the world has seen many ad hoc courts that have sued former prime ministers – to judge Charles Taylor in Liberia and Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. But only in 2016 will a former state party be indicted in the new, permanent court ICC for crimes against his own people.

Stating with penalties. The ICC has faced strong criticism for its involvement in Africa, and many are interested in undermining the institution. I raised this criticism in a post about "ICC and the African problem" in Ny Tid in March 2014. It is, among other things, about stamping the court as an imperialist tool, and I pointed out that this was unvarnished and partly incorrect. In the case of the Ivory Coast, Gbagbo himself has accepted the ICC's jurisdiction, and the country's government has instructed the ICC to investigate the cases.
Human rights organizations in Ivory Coast strongly emphasize that this is a new chapter in the country's history. They look at the lawsuit as a long-sought-after attempt to put an end to the crisis in the country, and to take away a penalty of political freedom. They also hope that, during or after the trial, the court finds it imperative to bring more on the prosecution bench, in order to ensure that "the truth is known and established among all residents," as Ali Ouattara puts it.
The truth is brutal, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. Gbagbo and Blé Goude have, after the allegation, encouraged action on the supporters of the – in the view of the international community – newly elected president Alassane Ouattara. These are aimed at four cases of crimes against the human race, including murder, rape and other inhuman acts. The crime scene has a distinctly sexual and gender-based profile. Such empowerment is particularly strong on poor women because the social stigma in the aftermath leads to social exploration and major social problems.
The lawsuit is a reminder that the ICC Treaty does not provide for immunity from prosecution for anyone, regardless of where they may be in life or in society. This is purely good. The development of international law and law through institutional building is and will remain crucial for lasting and sustainable peace.

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