THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court on Tuesday unsealed a warrant for the arrest of ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's youth leader, accusing him of crimes against humanity amid a bloody election standoff some three years ago.
Charles Ble Goude, 40, once known as the "Street General", is detained in Ivory Coast and wanted by the ICC on four counts including murder and rape, committed during 2010-2011 post-election violence.
On Tuesday the Hague-based ICC unsealed the December 21, 2011 warrant, saying Goude "allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility, as indirect co-perpetrator," for the crimes in the world's top cocoa producer between December 2010 and April 2011.
Prosecutors say the firebrand Goude formed part of Gbagbo's inner circle and he is wanted for murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and other inhuman acts, committed in the commercial capital of Abidjan and in the western Ivory Coast by Gbagbo loyalists.
Goude, leader of the "Young Patriots" militia, "allegedly had the power to control and give instructions directly to the youth who were systematically recruited, armed, trained and integrated into the chain of command," by forces loyal to long-time leader Gbagbo.
The arrest warrant is the third to be issued in prosecutors' investigation into crimes committed in the Ivory Coast, following earlier warrants issued for Laurent Gbagbo and his wife Simone.
Goude was arrested on January 17 in Ghana after more than a year-and-a-half on the run and extradited to the Ivory Coast the following day.
He also faces charges under Ivorian law.
Post-poll violence erupted in the west African country in late 2010 when Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to his bitter rival and current Ivorian President Alassane Outtara.
More than 3,000 people died in some five months of civil unrest in the election's aftermath.
Gbagbo was finally arrested on April 11, 2011 when Ouattara's forces with French and UN backing overran his heavily fortified Abidjan compound after days of heavy fighting.
The former historian-turned-politician was transferred into the ICC's custody in November 2011 from the northern Ivory Coast, where he spent almost eight months in detention.
He is now facing four counts of crimes against humanity relating to the violence.
Simone Gbagbo remains in the Ivory Coast, which has told the world crimes court it had the capacity to put her in the dock at home.
The ICC's announcement may be linked to a "blunder" by Ivorian Justice Minister Gnenema Mamadou Coulibaly who announced 10 days ago that "Charles Ble Goude (is) actually the object of an arrest warrant," which neither the Ivorian government nor the ICC wanted to confirm at the time.
It was however not clear whether Goude would be sent to the Netherlands, given the Ivory Coast's assurances that Simone Gbagbo could face justice in a local court.
In Abidjan, the acting president of the pan-African Congress for Justice and Equality for the People, (Cojep) an organisation founded by Goude, slated the warrant as "victor's justice", saying it would be a blow to the country's reconciliation process if the youth leader was handed over to the ICC.
"The arrest warrant is inappropriate in a context where the Ivorian government has denied the transfer of Simone Gbagbo," Roselin Bly told AFP.
"With this mandate, the ICC encourages the manifestation of victor's justice," she added, echoing comments by Gbagbo supporters, who said none of those close to the Ouattara regime had been arrested, despite accusations of rights abuses.