Laurent Gbagbo, ex-president of the Ivory Coast, has been charged with murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts by the International Criminal Court.

Gbabgbo has been charged for crimes allegedly committed by his loyalists who fought to keep him in power after the country's presidential elections last year.

In December 2010, Gbagbo, who had been Ivory Coast's president since 2000, disputed elections results which saw his rival Alassane Ouattara emerge as the winner, and months of fighting between the two opposing camps followed.

Gbagbo was arrested in Abidjan on April 11 and had been held in Korhogo since then.

In Ivory Coast Gbagbo faces charges for "economic crimes" allegedly committed during the political crisis and violent clashes, but the ICC also launched its own investigation.

He is the first head of state to be taken into custody at The Hague's court since its establishment in 2002 and arrived in the Netherlands shortly before 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Wednesday.

"Mr Gbagbo is brought to account for his individual responsibility in the attacks against civilians committed by forces acting on his behalf," said prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. "He is presumed innocent until proven guilty and will be given full rights and the opportunity to defend himself."

Moreno-Ocampo also stressed that both sides had committed crimes in the post-election violence and that the investigation was continuing.

"We will collect evidence impartially and independently, and bring further cases before the judges, irrespective of political affiliation," he said. "Leaders must understand that violence is no longer an option to retain or gain power. The time of impunity for these crimes is over."

The prosecutor comments came as Human Rights Watch welcomed news of Gbagbo's transfer to the ICC, but also insisted that Ouattara's forces had also been accused of atrocities.

"The ICC is playing its part to show that even those at the highest levels of power cannot escape justice when implicated in grave crimes," said Elise Keppler, HRW's senior international justice counsel.

However the ICC should also make sure it investigated both sides as "the many victims of abuse meted out by the forces loyal to President Ouattara also deserve to see justice done," the statement noted.

Gbagbo supporters have criticised the ICC's move.

In Ivory Coast, three-small pro-Gbagbo parties said they will pull out of parliamentary elections expected to take place in December and in Paris Gbagbo's lawyer called the court's decision 'illegal'.

"This decision by the International Criminal Court is illegal and goes against the interests of the country and of national reconciliation," said Lucie Bourthoumieux, one of the former's president lawyers.