THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity as his trial began Thursday at the International Criminal Court.
Gbagbo, 70, refused to leave office after narrowly losing a 2010 election to Alassane Ouattara. The incident provoked five months of conflict in which more than 3,000 people were killed.
Former militia leader Charles Ble Goude, 44, is on trial with Gbagbo. Each has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The trial is regarded as crucial for the ICC, which was established in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2002 with a mandate to handle war crimes and genocide. The ICC has had few convictions since its establishment.
Gbagbo is the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, but evidence may not be loaded in his favor. Evidence from the five-month conflict could instead benefit Ouattara, who also is being investigated by the ICC for alleged atrocities. The ICC's investigation has been slowed by a lack of cooperation from Ouattara's government, the BBC reported.
It could take three to four years to settle the outcome of the trial.
"It's the trial of all hopes. This kind of trial can last for years, so we have many chances for the truth to come out. The real question is, when will the other bad guys be judged?" said Kone Boubakar of the Ivorian Popular Front, an offshoot of Gbagbo's political party.