Ivory Coast should allow former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is barred from running in next month’s main presidential election, to vote in the vote, the African Court of Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights said on Friday.
The court, set up by members of the African Union in 2004, asked Côte d’Ivoire to “take the necessary steps to immediately remove all obstacles” that prevented Gbagbo from being added to the electoral roll.
Ivory Coast withdrew its recognition of the Court’s jurisdiction back in April this year.
Gbagbo, who was president from 2000 to 2010, is not on the electoral roll updated this year and therefore cannot vote or stand as a candidate on October 31.
The Constitutional Council, Côte d’Ivoire’s Supreme Court, has rejected 40 of 44 applications to challenge the election, which is taking place on the basis of extreme tension.
Among those excluded are Gbagbo, 75, and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, 47, who both played key roles in the crisis that surrounded the country following controversial 2010 elections.
However, the Ivorian court accepted an application by President Alassane Ouattara (78), who is seeking a third term despite criticism that this exceeds the constitutional limits.
Gbagbo was released on parole by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague after he was cleared in January 2019 for crimes against humanity. He lives in Brussels awaiting the outcome of an appeal against the ICC ruling.
His candidacy was rejected by the Constitutional Council on the grounds that he was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an Ivorian court in November last year looting the local branch of the Central Bank of the West African states during the post-election crisis.
The African court based in Arusha, Tanzania, also said Gbagbo’s conviction should not be included in his judicial status until it had time to deliver a full verdict.
On September 15, the African court handed down a verdict in Soros’ favor, saying the Ivory Coast should also “immediately remove all obstacles” that prevented him from taking part in the vote.
Soro provided military aid that enabled Ouattara to come to power after a civil war broke out when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in the 2010 election.
More than 3,000 people died in the fighting.
Soro, who now lives in France, was prevented from challenging the election due to a 20-year sentence, also in his absence, for alleged embezzlement of public funds, handed down in April.
Ouattara, has blasted attempts by Gbagbo and Soro to contest the presidential election as “provocation” and said one of them belongs behind bars.
“Soro, like Gbagbo, was expelled because he has a criminal record,” Ouattara told French magazine Paris Match.
“Each of them is fully aware that their candidacies are based on provocation … Guillaume Soro deserves not to be on the campaign track, but in prison,” he said.
“This young man, full of money and power, has simply lost his head.”