Simone Ehivet Gbagbo known as the ‘Iron Lady’ is an Ivorian politician and wife of Laurent Gbagbo, the former President of Ivory Coast, who is currently being tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.
Simone Gbagbo was born, 20 June 1949 and trained as a historian, earning a third cycle doctorate in oral literature. Prior to her political career, she worked in applied linguistics, as a Marxist labor union leader.
In her stint in politics, she helped found, along with her future husband, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) and later served as the President of the Parliamentary Group and a Vice president of the same FPI. As the wife of Laurent Gbagbo, she was the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 to 2011.
After they had fought for and Ivory Coast finally introduced multiparty elections, Gbagbo and her husband were arrested for allegedly inciting violence in February 1992 and spent six months in prison.
Obviously, the iron lady is no stranger to controversy. The 2010-2011 Ivorian crisis saw Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara disputing the results of the 2010 presidential election and the crisis finally ended with the arrest of Laurent and Simone Gbagbo by UN and French-backed pro-Ouattara forces on 11 April 2011.
A warrant was unsealed by the International Criminal Court for Simone Gbagbo’s arrest for crimes against humanity on 22 November 2012. The court alleged that she had played a central role in post-election violence but whereas, Amnesty International called on the Ivorian government to immediately transfer her to the custody of the court, the government refused to do so and Simone Gbagbo was judged by an Ivorian court.
On 10 March 2015, she received a sentence of 20 years in jail after being convicted of charges of attacking state authority, tied to her role in post-election violence in 2010 that left more than 3,000 people dead.
Today, the iron lady will go on trial in the main city, Abidjan on charges of crimes against humanity. She has denied any wrongdoing and her case will be the first in Côte d’Ivoire for crimes against humanity. For this reason, a lot hangs on it not the least of which is the opportunity for victims of pro-Gbagbo forces to learn the truth about her alleged role in abuses.
Simone Gbagbo will be tried by Côte d’Ivoire’s highest criminal court (Cour d’Assises). Despite this, ICC judges in December 2014 and May 2015 rejected the government’s request for Ivorian courts to retain jurisdiction over Simone Gbagbo’s case, concluding that at the time the investigation into her role in human rights crimes had not made sufficient progress, in essence, Cote d’Ivoire remains obligated to surrender Simone Gbagbo to The Hague.