The Hague: The International Criminal Court said today it will try Ivory Coast ex-president Laurent Gbagbo for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during a bloody 2010-2011 election standoff.
The pre-trial chamber "confirmed by majority four charges of crimes against humanity against Laurent Gbagbo and committed him for trial," the court said in a statement of the much-anticipated decision.
The charges include murder, rape and persecution committed during post-election violence over three years ago in the west African nation that claimed over 3,000 lives.
Gbagbo, 69, is the first former head of state brought before the ICC, where he is accused of masterminding a campaign of violence during the presidential vote standoff in the world`s largest cocoa producing country.
He maintains that he was evicted in favour of his rival, current President Alassane Ouattara, thanks to a plot led by former colonial ruler France.
French and UN forced backed an assault on Gbagbo`s villa in Abidjan after which Ouattara`s forces detained him and handed him over to the ICC.
The charges are for allegedly fomenting the wave of violence as he refused to hand over to election winner Ouattara after 10 years in power. He has denied the charges against him.
The court had to decide if there were "substantial grounds to believe that Gbagbo committed the crimes" and should be charged.
Gbagbo was handed over to the court in November 2011, but a confirmation of charges hearing in February last year requested ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to provide additional evidence against him.
The court said it analysed statements from 108 witnesses, more than 22,000 pages of documentary evidence, as well as a large amount of audio and video material.
Gbagbo is accused of "having engaged his individual criminal responsibility for committing these crimes, jointly with members of his inner circle and through members of the pro-Gbagbo forces," the court said.