He is the first former head of state ever to appear in the ICC, the BBC said.
He has denied ordering the violence, though he was not asked to enter a plea at Monday's hearing.
The 30-minute session was to establish Gbagbo's identity and that he fully understood the charges against him, Agence France Presse reported.
More from GlobalPost: Gbagbo spirited to The Hague
Speaking in a hoarse voice, Gbagbo claimed neither he nor his lawyers had been informed he was to be transferred to the ICC detention center in the Netherlands last week, only finding out when he was taken to the airport.
Asked about the conditions in which he was being kept, Gbagbo told the judge they were fine, but complained that the conditions in which he was arrested were "less so." Some 50 French tanks surrounded the presidential residence while helicopters bombarded it from the air, he said.
The courtroom was packed with Gbagbo's supporters, who loudly sang the Ivory Coast national anthem as the hearing drew to an end, Radio Netherlands reported.
More from GlobalPost: Ouattara works to heal rifts
Gbagbo and his supporters deny he lost the election to rival Alassane Ouattara, and accuse France of plotting to remove Gbagbo from power.
One of the former president's aides, Toussaint Alain, accused the ICC of "judicial kidnapping" on behalf of France, describing the proceedings as a "neocolonialist trial" at a press conference Monday.
Judges will now decide whether the case against Gbagbo is strong enough to go to trial. The decision will be announced on June 18, 2012.
The ICC says it is also investigating alleged atrocities committed by Ouattara's supporters.