ICC Judges Acquit Former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo – Adetukasi

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday acquitted former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and former youth minister Charles Ble Goude of crimes committed following disputed elections in 2010, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case...... Baba Stoko

By Adeitan Adetukasi

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo greets his legal team as he enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, where judges acquitted Gbagbo and ex-government minister Charles Ble Goude for lack of evidence.

In a stunning blow to prosecutors, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser ordered the immediate release of the 73-year-old Gbagbo and 47-year-old Ble Goude following the judgment midway through their trial. He later suspended that order ahead of a follow-up hearing on Wednesday, when prosecutors are expected to announce whether they will appeal.

He said it was a matter of public record that Ivory Coast was wracked by post-election violence in 2010 and early 2011, but he said prosecutors did not present evidence that Gbagbo and Ble Goude formulated a common plan for their supporters to unleash violence to keep Gbagbo in power.

More than 3,000 people were killed after Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by his rival and current Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. As Tarfusser announced the acquittals, supporters of Gbagbo and Ble Goude stood up and cheered in the courtroom’s gallery. Even before the hearing started, dozens of supporters sang and danced outside the court’s headquarters.

Lawyers for Gbagbo and Ble Goude asked judges last year to acquit both men for lack of evidence at the end of the prosecution case in their trial that began just under three years ago. Prosecutors argued that Gbagbo and an “inner circle” including Ble Goude formulated a “common plan” to cling to power using force.

Both defendants deny such a plan was ever discussed and pleaded not guilty to four charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and persecution. At a hearing late last year, Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit told judges the prosecution case was based on “suppositions that have only a very remote link to reality” and added that the prosecution “has not provided anything here in the courtroom that has any value whatsoever as evidence.”

Two of the three judges hearing the case agreed and handed down the latest defeat for prosecutors at the world’s first global war crimes court. The case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who also was accused of involvement — before he became president — in post-election violence in his country, collapsed in December 2014. Last year a former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, was acquitted on appeal of crimes allegedly committed by his militia in neighboring Central African Republic.

Gbagbo has been in the court’s custody since November 2011 and Ble Goude since March 2014. A former university professor who founded an opposition party well before Ivory Coast embraced democracy, Gbagbo spent much of the 1980s in exile in France. After returning to Ivory Coast, he lost the 1990 presidential vote and spent six months in jail in 1992 for his role in student protests.

He came to power in 2000 in a flawed election, though he put off holding another one for a decade. In the 2010 race, Gbagbo placed first in the first round with 38 percent of the vote before losing to Ouattara in a runoff.

Ouattara last year granted amnesty to 800 prisoners prosecuted for crimes connected to the 2010 post-election crisis, including Gbagbo’s wife, Simone, who also has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast has refused to send her to The Hague.

Comments are closed.