The International Criminal Court is looking for a way to intervene in Ivory Coast after last week's massacres. Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said on Wednesday that "widespread or systematic killings" in Ivory Coast may trigger a formal investigation.
Several hundred people were killed in massacres in the western town of Duekouea last week. One mass grave contained almost 200 bodies. Up to now, more than 1,500 people are reported to have died in Ivory Coast since Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to step down after he lost the presidential election to Alassane Ouattara.
The situation in Ivory Coast gives Ocampo reason to be "concerned" about the "deteriorating situation." He says his office "continues to collect information on alleged crimes committed by different parties to the conflict."
ICC investigators have been conducting a preliminary examination in Ivory Coast. The next step will be for Ocampo to use his independent power to request judges at the court tp approve an investigation.
Under the 1998 Rome Statute that set up the tribunal in The Hague, any member state of the ICC can refer a case to the court, requesting the prosecutor to investigate alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.
Ivory Coast is not a member of the court. But Ocampo brought to memory that Laurent Gbagbo accepted jurisdiction of the court in 2003 when he was still in office. More recently President Ouattara sent Ocampo a letter accepting ICC jurisdiction and already provided information to his office.
However, in the present circumstances, Ocampo says a referral from another ICC member state would prove very useful in accelerating such a probe "and start to prepare a request for an arrest warrant for those most responsible for crimes in Ivory Coast."
One of the options Ocampo is exploring is a referral by members of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
Ocampo's office was already conducting a 'preliminary examination' into older crimes committed in the West African state, including alleged widespread sexual violence in 2002-2005.