Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was expected to arrive in the Netherlands on Wednesday to face an arrest warrant at the International Criminal Court, the first former head of state to do so since its inception.
The Hague-based court, which is also pursuing Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and investigating alleged crimes in Kenya, Libya and Central African Republic, has so far declined to comment on the warrant.
Last month it opened an investigation into killings, rapes and other abuses committed during a four-month conflict triggered by Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to Alassane Ouattara in last year's election. The conflict ended only when French-backed pro-Ouattara forces captured him on April 11.
Gbagbo was flown by helicopter on Tuesday from remote Korhogo in northern Ivory Coast, where he had been under house arrest since his capture, for a secret destination where he was to be transferred on to a plane, military officials said.
The ICC's silence means there is as yet no information on what exactly Gbagbo is to be charged with.
There are no official charges against him that have been indicated to us. It's a political decision and not a judicial one against Gbagbo, Gbagbo's lawyer Lucie Bourthoumieux told Reuters by phone from France on Tuesday.
The indictment is a victory for ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who has up to now struggled to get hold of some of his biggest targets. Gbagbo is one of 2-6 people the prosecutor says he wants to focus on in this case.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC on charges of orchestrating genocide in the Darfur region, has travelled to countries including ICC member countries Malawi, Chad, Kenya and Djibouti without being arrested.
Gbagbo's capture in April ended a civil war that killed 3,000 people and uprooted more than a million.
If it is true that he was the one who ordered these crimes, then he should pay for them, Ferdinand Ahiba, a teacher, told Reuters TV in Abidjan's palm-lined streets.
But his trial by the ICC is likely to prove as divisive as his election loss -- almost half of Ivorians voted for him.
Gbagbo's FPI party is boycotting legislative polls next month in protest against the detention of many of its members.
The militiamen who backed Gbagbo during the dispute have largely fled, been disarmed or are in hiding, but popular anger, especially in Gbagbo's homeland in the west, could easily flare.
This victors' justice is in reality nothing but a political manoeuvre designed to liquidate President Gbagbo, his aide Toussaint Alain said in a statement.
The charge of victors' justice would be easier for Ouattara to refute if any of his men had been arrested for alleged crimes during the conflict, but none have.
Efforts to hold those to account who fought in the forces allied with Ouattara are also essential ... forces on both sides have been repeatedly implicated in grave crimes, said Elise Keppler, Senior Counsel of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
The sight of Gbagbo on trial at the ICC could anger many Ivorians after Moreno-Ocampo said Libya could try Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam at home, despite an ICC warrant for him.
(Additional reporting by Mark John in Dakar, Ange Aboa in Abidjan, Svebor Kranjc in the Netherlands; Editing by Ralph Gowling)