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The ICC deliberates on the judicial future of Laurent Gbagbo

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                The trial of the former Ivorian president and the former leader of the Young Patriots Charles Blé Goudé began in January 2016. Both had been acquitted at first instance, in early 2019, of crimes against humanity and war crimes. , in the context of the violence committed between December 2010 and April 2011, following the announcement of the presidential results.  The ICC is due to rule on these acquittals on Wednesday.

                                    <p>One of the first big highlights of this trial is the intervention of Fatou Bensouda's team.  The office of the prosecutor presents numerous documents and calls nearly 80 witnesses to the bar, including military and political officials.  His goal: to show that Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were part of a "restricted circle", which had established a "common plan" to remain in power, the day after contested results at the end of 2010, and this went through the commission of 'acts of violence.

« Evidence shows Laurent Gbagbo was receiving information on planning and carrying out attacks, and giving instructions, explains Eric MacDonald, first deputy prosecutor. It is not useful to demonstrate that a common plan has been established as such: a common plan may not be written, nor explicit. But it can be deduced from the facts. Our thesis is that Laurent Gbagbo had given orders which resulted in the commission of crimes. For example, on December 15, 2010, by sending troops against political opponents who marched in the streets of Abidjan, Mr. Gbagbo was + at least + aware that crimes were going to occur ».

Gbagbo and Blé Goudé acquitted at first instance

After two years of hearings, the trial changes, the judges are not convinced by the accusations of the prosecutor’s office. They allow the defense of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé to plead acquittal, without presenting their witnesses.

The advice of the former Ivorian president insists on one point. The prosecutor does not have enough evidence to rigorously link the victims to the four alleged incidents in this trial. They also question the independence and reliability of the forensic expertise presented by the prosecutor.

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In mid-January 2019, the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber acquitted the two defendants. President-Judge Cuno Tarfusser even goes so far as to speak of the ” exceptional weakness Of the prosecutor’s file.

« The majority of judges believe that the prosecutor failed to prove the existence of a common plan to keep Laurent Gbagbo in power, which involved the commission of crimes against civilians, declared Judge Tarfusseur on January 15, 2019 during a hearing held at the ICC headquarters in The Hague. He also failed to prove the existence of a policy targeting civilians., continues the judge who presides over the Pre-Trial Chamber.

Finally, the prosecutor failed to demonstrate that the public statements of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé constituted an order or an incitement to commit crimes. This is why the majority considers that the prosecutor did not respect the standard of proof defined by article 66 of the Rome Statute, and decides to acquit the defense of all the charges against Messrs Gbagbo and Blé Goudé. », Concludes Judge Tarfusser.

Once acquitted, Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are released, under several conditions. The former Ivorian president settles in Belgium, and the former boss of the Patriots, in the Netherlands, while awaiting the possible consequences before the ICC.

Appeal procedure: the acquittal in question

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The prosecutor’s office asks the Appeals Chamber to reclassify the decision taken at first instance, to find a dismissal because it denounces “ procedural flaws ».

Several scenarios are possible.

« If the judges confirm the acquittal decision and therefore rule in the pre-trial chamber, this should close the case definitively., explains Thijs Bougnewt, research professor at the University of Amsterdam. On the other hand, continues this lawyer specializing in international crimes, things are more complex if the judges follow the prosecutor and announce a dismissal: they would thus give the prosecutor the possibility of having the option of opening a new trial. This would mean that a whole new file would be opened. But it will depend on the intentions of the prosecutor’s office ».

The deliberations will be made live at 3 p.m. this Wednesday afternoon, in The Hague.


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