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

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,“ stated 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.

[Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC]
© AFP / Michael Kooren

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, ” said 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”, declared 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, ” said 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.

A Q&A on the Gbagbo / Blé Goudé case will soon be available on our website

Source: International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH)

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