ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will send Charles Ble Goude, a former youth leader and close ally of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, to the International Criminal Court where he is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity, the justice minister said on Thursday.
The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said in October it had issued an arrest warrant for Ble Goude, who headed the notorious Young Patriots street militia during Gbagbo's presidency, for his alleged role in violence following a disputed 2010 general election.
"The cabinet has agreed to send Ble Goude to the International Criminal Court," Gnenema Mamadou Coulibaly told reporters. "We are going to study how to quickly execute this decision."
Goude had requested to be tried by an Ivorian court and not sent to The Hague.
"Charles Ble Goude has always maintained his desire and right to be tried by his own people," Nick Kaufman, Ble Goude's defence lawyer before the ICC, told Reuters in an emailed response.
He said the Ivorian government's approach to justice was arbitrary and politically motivated.
"The only rational explanation is that the government continues to be concerned about the popular appeal of Charles Ble Goude and continues to deny his central and essential role in peace and reconciliation in Cote d'Ivoire," he said.
He added Ble Goude would consider all options, including filing an admissibility challenge.
Gbagbo, who refused to give up power after losing the presidential runoff in 2010, has been in the ICC's custody since November 2011, accused of responsibility for rapes, murders, persecution and inhuman acts.
The ICC has been criticised by some African governments, which say it unfairly targets the continent.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Thomas Escritt; Writing by Daniel Flynn and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Emma Farge and Andrew Roche)