Ivory Coast: Concerns over a questionable trial

At the end of a trial filled with many inconsistencies, the Assize Court rendered its verdict in the case of endangering State security during the post-election crisis period. Our organisations express their concern over the unfolding of this trial and its possible impact on cases on the most serious crimes that are currently being investigated.

Initially expected to be held in October 2014, the trial before the Assize Court was held to hear the following cases: endangering national security, attempt or conspiracy against State authority, forming of armed groups, leading or participating in an armed group, participation in an insurrection movement, disruption of public safety, coalition of civil servants, rebellion, usurpation of functions, tribalism and xenophobia. All these were alleged facts against the pro-Gbagbo relating to the post-electoral crisis. The trial was finally started on the 29 December 2014.

81 defendants appeared before the court and the verdict was rendered on the 10 March, 2015. Many of them were sentenced to incarceration, notably the former First Lady Simone Gbagbo who received a sentence of 20 years in prison and Michel Gbagbo, the son of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, condemned to 5 years in prison.

FIDH, MIDH and the LIDHO, who were able to observe the important parts of the trial, deplore the poor quality of the investigations which did not, or did little, to support the charges against the defendants and which revealed the deficiencies: lack of real evidence, weak arguments by witnesses against the defence and of the prosecution as a whole.

"The weakness of the trial showed that we still have a long way to go to achieve justice in Ivory Coast. At the end of the trial, some people received severe sentencing, on the basis of essentially unconvincing evidence, which does not add to the credibility of Ivory Coast justice that is so sorely needed to establish a rule of law that can last," stated Yacouba Doumbia, MIDH President.

The shortcomings of this trial is also concerning for the ongoing investigations into the most serious crimes committed during the post-electoral crisis, when over 3,000 people were killed and hundreds of women were victims of rape and other sexual assaults. FIDH, LIDHO and MIDH have filed as civil parties in these legal proceedings and are supporting some 100 victims by appearing with them before national courts. These victims expect fair trials that meet international standards.

"For victims of the most serious crimes of the post-electoral crisis whom we are representing, this trial was a test case, because the legal investigations concerning them are still in process. The least we can say today, is that we do not feel reassured, and that Ivory Coast justice will have to give greater guarantees in judging the serious human rights violations committed between 2010 and 2011 by the Gbagbo and Ouattara sides," declared Drissa Traore, FIDH Vice-resident.

While Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced, on 11 March 2015 that the cases of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé would be combined, Simone Gagbo stands accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC. She has also been charged for these crimes by Ivorian courts, in an ongoing investigation by the Special Investigation and Examination Unit (Cellule spéciale d’enquête et d’instruction, CSEI).

"This trial should serve as a counter-example for the current proceedings on the serious human rights violations: Ivorian justice must immediately ensure that the proceedings are carried out in a careful, disciplined manner, where the charges are sufficiently documented and the prosecutions are fair, so that the victims can finally obtain justice in the trials to come. Otherwise, Ivory Coast should transfer the case of Simone Gbagbo, who is under an international arrest warrant, to the ICC.," stated Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Head of its Litigation Action Group.

For more information, see the FIDH/LIDHO/MIDH reportIvory Coast: Choosing between Justice and Impunity, published in December 2014.

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