Ivory Coast’s former first lady Simone Gbagbo says she suffered attempted rape while in detention back in 2011, and claims French soldiers deployed in the country also filmed the attempted rape.
During the first day of her trial on Tuesday, Simone denied a court’s charges of crimes against humanity during the 2010 wave of violence, saying, “Mr. Chairman, I have been brought before this court for crimes I did not commit. I have been accused of things that are not established as facts, alluding to my direct involvement in the violence.”
“Personally, I arrived at the Golf hotel (Ouattara’s headquarters) with my buttocks exposed, naked, and I suffered several attempts to rape me in broad daylight … and all this in the presence of French soldiers who were filming this,” she said.
According to the prosecution, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo was part of a small group of party officials from Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) that organized violence and rights abuses against supporters of her husband’s presidential rival — Alassane Ouattara — in an attempt to keep him in power. She also faces allegations of crimes against prisoners of war, crimes against the civilian population and crimes against humanity.
“The FPI put in place a crisis cell in January 2011 that met at the presidential residence and constituted the organ charged with planning and organizing the repression,” an indictment read in the court stated.
The trial is the West African country’s first for crimes against humanity and is being held in a domestic court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court (ICC), claiming that the Ivorian justice system is now capable of judging her. However, her lawyers did not immediately enter a plea on Tuesday and challenged the court’s jurisdiction for several hours, noting that Simone could not be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” committed in 2011 because these charges had not been included in Ivory Coast’s penal code since March 2015.
But prosecutors hit back at the criticism on Wednesday with Abidjan’s chief prosecutor, Aly Yeo, saying, “The trial that began yesterday will be a fair trial that will respect the rights of the defense, a transparent trial.”
During the court session, Ivory Coast’s “Iron Lady” also claimed that Ouattara, now president of Ivory Coast, instigated the bloodshed. “The post-election crisis was born from the refusal of Alassane Ouattara, with the help of French authorities, to respect the constitution of Ivory Coast,” she claimed.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the post-poll civil war that broke out when Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara in the November 2010 run-off election. The violence petered out when troops stormed the bunker where the Gbagbo couple had taken refuge in the country’s main city, Abidjan, and arrested the two.
Simone Gbagbo is currently serving a 20-year sentence which was handed to her last year for charges on “endangering state security” — a sentence that was upheld on appeal this month — and Laurent Gbagbo is facing trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges linked to the conflict.