Gbagbo appears at ICC in Hague

Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo has become the first former head of state to appear at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He faces four charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, in the wake of Ivory Coast's disputed presidential elections a year ago. Some 3,000 were killed in violence that followed Mr Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in the November 2010 polls. He was not asked to plead but has denied responsibility for the violence. The 66-year-old has also rejected accusations that the elections were rigged and accuses former colonial power France of plotting to topple him. His transfer from Ivory Coast - where he had been under house arrest since April - to The Hague last week sparked anger from his supporters who described it as a "political kidnapping". His Ivorian Popular Front has pulled out of the 11 December parliamentary elections in protest. 'More to come' During a 25-minute hearing, Mr Gbagbo complained that he was "deceived" about his transfer to The Hague. He said he was told he was going to meet a judge in the north-eastern town of Korhogo when the arrest warrant was produced. "My lawyers were not prepared for that," he told the court, wearing a dark suit and tie. He also said that he was not told he was being taken to The Hague until after he was at the airport. The hearing was the first step in a process which could lead to Mr Gbagbo going on trial. The court said it would announced on 18 June 2012 whether to proceed to trial. Mr Gbagbo's arrest follows an ICC investigation into the four months of conflict that began in Ivory Coast when he refused to hand power to his long-time rival Alassane Ouattara, who was declared winner of the election. The charges relate to events between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011, the ICC said. Mr Gbagbo is accused of being an "indirect co-perpetrator" in attacks that were "widespread and systematic. .. committed over an extended time period, over large geographic areas, and following a similar general pattern". Louis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor at the ICC, says there is evidence of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians. But troops loyal to Mr Ouattara are also suspected of carrying out abuses, and human rights groups have urged an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by other parties. Mr Moreno-Ocampo said Mr Gbagbo is only the first to be brought to account and "there is more to come". The ICC was set up in 2002 to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - committed anywhere in the world. It is currently hearing six other cases, all relating to crimes committed in Africa, including that of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former vice-resident of DR Congo, whose trial began in November 2010. It has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. The African Union has accused the ICC of concentrating on alleged atrocities committed in Africa and ignoring crimes elsewhere in the world - charges Mr Moreno-Ocampo has denied. Former Liberian President Charles Taylor is currently on trial in The Hague by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, set up jointly by the UN and Sierra Leonean government Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was on trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) - an ad hoc UN court - at the time of his death in 2006.