ICC/Côte d’Ivoire: Towards total impunity for 2010-2011 crimes after acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé

Press release
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The acquittal of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo and his former minister Charles Blé Goudé at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is another step towards impunity for the crimes committed in the 2010-2011 post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire, which resulted in the killing of more than 3000 persons. After the Ivorian National Assembly adopted a law on 19 December 2018 confirming the presidential Amnesty adopted last August in favour of 800 persons, an aquittal of the only 2 suspects before the ICC means that those bearing the highest responsibility for these crimes, among the pro Gbagbo and the pro Ouattara, may never be punished.

On 15 January 2019, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided, by majority, Judge Herrera Carbuccia dissenting, to acquit former Ivorian president Mr Laurent Gbagbo and his former minister ‘Street General’ Charles Blé Goudé from all charges. The Chamber additionally ordered the release of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé, a matter which will be further discussed with the parties in a hearing tomorrow at 10AM. Both were accused of being criminally responsible for four counts of crimes against humanity committed in Abidjan between 16 December 2010 and on or around 12 April 2011: murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution. The trial of these two figures commenced on 28 January 2016 and they have been in ICC detention since 7 and 4 years, respectively. The Chamber concluded by majority that the Prosecutor has failed to demonstrate several core constitutive elements of the crimes as charged, but has not made its fully reasoned decision available in writing yet.

“Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were acquitted today despite their leading role in the 2010-2011 crisis which led to almost 3000 deaths ”

Mr Yacouba Doumbia, president of the Ivorian Movement for Human Rights (MIDH) and lawyer for the victims.

“We call on the Office of the Prosecutor to appeal today’s decision and outline, once more, the criminal responsibility of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. The ICC as a whole should learn from its difficulties in convicting (former) political leaders bearing the highest responsibility in the perpetration of crimes and revise adequately its policies ”

Amal Nassar, FIDH Representative to the ICC.

Following the submissions of 82 witnesses and experts for the prosecution, the defence lawyers spoke out against the weakness of the evidence presented and submitted in July and August of 2018 requests for the charges to be dropped and the accused to be acquitted. Consequently, the Trial Chamber I requested the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to submit a ’trial brief’, illustrating the case and detailing the evidence in support of the charges against Gbagbo and Blé Goudé. In October and November 2018, hearings were held by the Chamber for the parties to present their arguments. Victims, through their legal representatives, expressed concern over the conduct of proceedings, and regretted their inability to put forward their views in relation to the assessment of evidence and any eventual withdrawal of any charge given its impact on their personal interests. Without convictions, victims participating in the case will no longer expect reparations, and the assistance programme announced by the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) for Côte d’Ivoire is not yet in place.

“While the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé shows that the rights of the defence are respected at the ICC, it is at the same time disastrous news for the victims who are left with no possible remedy ”

Pierre Adjoumani Kouamé, president of the Ivorian Human Rights League (LIDHO).

This acquittal comes on top of the amnesty granted last year in Côte d’Ivoire. On 6 August 2018, President Alassane Ouattara adopted an order that grants amnesty for 800 persons implicated in the crimes committed in the post-electoral violence of 2010-2011 including military and political leaders.

FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO contested the legality of this amnesty decree by lodging an appeal on 5 October 2018 to have the decree annulled on the grounds of an “abuse of power”. Nevertheless, and without answering to the arguments developed by FIDH, LIDHO and MIDH, the government obtained the adoption of a legislation by the National Assembly on 19 December 2018, adopting the presidential amnesty and enshrining impunity for those principally responsible for the post-electoral violence.

“Between the amnesty decree issued by President Ouattara and the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé at the ICC, there is a risk of wholesale impunity for the 2010-11 crimes. The Ivorian government and the international community are leaving 3000 victims and their families with no recourse to justice. Eight years after the tragic crisis experienced by our country, those same actors risk fuelling the antagonism of the past and the political violence which ensued. ”

Drissa Traoré, Vice-president of FIDH.
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