Gbagbo and Blé Goudé at the ICC: An important step towards justice for victims of the post electoral crisis


(Abidjan, The Hague) On 28 January 2016, former President of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo and former Minister and leader of the Young Patriots (COJEP) Charles Blé Goudé, will face ICC judges at the opening of their joint trial in The Hague, Netherlands.

Our organisations underline this judicial episode’s great significance in the fight against impunity for international crimes committed during the post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast in 2010-2011. It will also be the first time that a former President will be tried at the ICC.

“The trial is of the utmost importance as it sends a strong signal that even the highest representatives of a State - irrespective of their power and official position - are not immune to prosecution under the Rome Statute system and will face justice for the crimes they have committed.“

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution, in the context of the post-election mass violence in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011.

The five months crisis broke out following presidential elections where Gbagbo refused to step down after his rival, Alassane Ouattara, was proclaimed the winner of the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission. At least 3,000 people were killed and more than 150 women raped during the crisis, often in targeted acts by armed forces on both sides. Blé Goudé allegedly played a key role in Gbagbo’s inner circle, serving as an intermediary between him and youth loyal to Gbagbo, the COJEP, he presided.

Victims of the violence are participating in the trial. In total, 668 victims have been authorised to participate - 199 against Laurent Gbagbo and 469 against Mr Charles Blé Goudé. Our organisations welcome the participation of hundreds of victims in the proceedings and call for an effective legal representation, provided with the necessary means.

"We particularly welcome the participation of hundreds of Ivorian victims in the proceedings, which we consider a crucial part of the accountability process. Their voices must be heard and we hope they will get justice, after several years of waiting and hope."

Pierre Adjoumani Kouamé, President of LIDHO

In Ivory Coast, the national court sytem has initiated several judicial proceedings regarding crimes committed during the post-election crisis. The creation of a Special Investigation and Examination Unit in June 2011 enabled the investigatives judges to conduct criminal investigations and indict more than 150 people for their alleged role in the crimes committed during this period. If national prosecutions at first exclusively targeted individuals from the the Gbagbo side, they now target all actors involved in the crisis and several officers of the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI) and their subordinates have been prosecuted in 2015.

Our organizations support almost 300 victims in these legal proceedings and FIDH, MIDH and LIDHO are also civil parties.

“These proceedings against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé will be closely watched in Ivory Coast but also by the international community in light of the complementarity principle. Challenges faced by the justice system, after the crimes committed during the crisis must be addressed jointly in The Hague and in Abidjan, so that all those most responsible can be tried.”

Aimée Zebeyoux, President of the Women Jurist Association of Ivory Coast

National procedures are ongoing and President Alassane Ouattara has reaffirmed in recent months his willingness to hold within a reasonable time the trials of the post-election crisis. The appointment of a new Minister of Justice in January 2016 could well give new impetus to the Special Investigation and Examination Unit, in particular through an enhanced budget and renewed political support.

"National investigations are incomplete. The judges have done important work and made progress to be welcomed, particularly given the scale of the proceedings, but several months will be needed to complete the investigsations and prepare a satisfactory fair trial."

Yacouba Doumbiua, President of MIDH

While the Ivorian President repeated that Ivory Coast would not transfer any more accused to The Hague, since he considers the Ivorian justice system is now able to try those responsible for the most serious crimes, and since the ICC Office of the Prosecutor started its investigation into crimes committed by forces that supported Alassane Ouattara, the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goude will lay the foundations for effective complementarity between national and international jurisdictions.

For more information, read our Q&A on the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the ICC

Background of the case

Ivory Coast, which was not party to the Rome Statute at the time, accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC on 18 April 2003, in a declaration made in accordance with article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. On both 14 December 2010 and 3 May 2011, the Presidency of Ivory Coast reaffirmed the country’s acceptance of this jurisdiction.
Following a preliminary examination, the ICC Prosecutor submitted, on 23 June 2011, a request for authorisation to open investigations on his own initiative into the situation in Ivory Coast. On 3 October 2011, the ICC opened an investigation with respect to alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed since 28 November 2010. On 22 February 2012, the Pre-Trial Chamber decided to expand its authorisation for the investigation in Ivory Coast to include crimes allegedly committed between 19 September 2002 and 28 November 2010. On 15 February 2013, Ivory Coast ratified the Rome Statute.
Following the arrest warrant issued on 23 November 2011, Mr Gbagbo was transferred to the ICC detention centre in The Hague on 30 November 2011. Mr Blé Goudé was surrendered on 22 March 2014 to the ICC by the national authorities of Ivory Coast following a warrant of arrest issued by the ICC on 21 December 2011. Charges were confirmed against them on 12 June 2014 and 11 December 2014, respectively and their trial assigned to Trial Chamber I.
The two cases against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were joined by the Chamber of the ICC on 11 March 2015 in order to ensure the efficacy and expeditiousness of the proceedings. The Chamber explained that both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé had charges confirmed against them which arose from the same allegations, namely crimes allegedly committed during the same incidents, and that both are alleged to have been part of an ‘inner circle’ which jointly designed and implemented a common plan.
On 7 May 2015, the Chamber scheduled the opening of the trial for 10 November 2015, in order to hear the opening statements of the parties and participants. On 28 October it granted a request of the Gbagbo Defence and re-scheduled the opening statements to 28 January 2016.
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