Thursday January 28, 2016
- Trial of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo
and his street general Charles Ble' Goude' begins in the
Hague. They both face four charges of crimes against
humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or in the
alternative - attempted murder, and persecution).
According to the ICC, seventy year old
former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was
surrendered to the court on November 30, 2011 and on
June 12 2014, the Pre-trial Chamber confirmed the
charges he's now facing.
44-year-old Charles Ble' Goude' was
taken into the custody of the ICC on March 22, 2014
after he was arrested by Ivory Coast authorities on an
arrest warrant issued by the court on December 21, 2011.
Both men will now have the opportunity to defend
themselves against the charges - a chance their alleged
victims were never given.
The Canadian news outlet,
the CBC had this as
a part of its report on the opening day of the trial -
"Hundreds of Gbagbo's supporters
gathered outside as the hearing began, demanding the
release of a man they say is a victim of neo-colonial
meddling by former colonial power France.
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser
insisted the court would not be used for political
grandstanding during the trial, which will also weigh
charges against former youth leader Charles Ble Goude.
He pleaded not guilty to four counts of war crimes and
crimes against humanity. "This is not a game," Tarfusser
said. "The chamber will not allow this trial to be used
as a political instrument in any way whatsoever. Rising
stiffly, Gbagbo, 70, said: "I plead not guilty." Ble
Goude, 44, known as the "general of the streets" for his
fiery speeches during the 2011 crisis, added that he
"did not recognise" the charges.
Supporters say Gbagbo is being punished for standing up
to the former colonial power. "We want him to be
released," said Michele, a Paris-based Ivorian
protesting outside the court. "France intervened to oust
Gbagbo and install a rebel chief," she added, referring
to Ouattara, still seen by many Gbagbo supporters as
illegitimate despite his re-election last year.
Gbagbo's supporters accuse the court
of being selective in its prosecutions, though court
prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Wednesday she had
stepped up investigations into the pro-Ouattara camp."
The BBC's Anna Holligan
"Inside the courtroom, Laurent Gbagbo
seemed unsteady, leaning on his desk as he pleaded not
guilty. His co-accused, Charles Ble Goude, gave a more
defiant response, telling the judges: "I do not
recognise the charges."
Prosecutors said Mr Ble Goude had
acted as a spin doctor. He called himself the "street
general". Archive footage played in court showed him
comparing himself to former British Prime Minister Tony
Blair's media adviser Alastair Campbell. Chief
prosecutor Fatou Bensouda used her opening statement to
focus on the victims.
She spoke of one woman who was
arrested during a peaceful march in Abidjan and detained
for three days. During that time, Ms Bensouda said, the
woman was gang-raped by police officers - the very
people who were supposed to protect her.
Outside protesters playing on bongo
drums complained of "victor's justice". To date none of
President Alassane Ouattara's supporters have been
charged by the ICC.
Mr Gbagbo sparked a crisis in Ivory
Coast after he refused to step down following his loss
to Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential vote...The
prosecution said it currently planned to bring forward
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had the
previous day told the media that the ICC had enough
evidence to support the charges against the two accused
men. When the trial opened she emphasised -
"Let me be clear from the outset: this
trial is not about who won the 2010 elections. Nor is it
about who should have won those elections. It is about
the individual criminal responsibility of the two
Accused for crimes committed in the 2010 post-election
violence which fall under the jurisdiction of this
It is about their responsibility for
crimes committed by the armed forces of Côte d'Ivoire,
and by youth groups, militia and mercenaries – in
furtherance of a plan to keep Laurent Gbagbo in power by
all means." She went on to highlight portions of the
evidence which she says made it mandatory for the ICC to
try the men on the charges preferred against them.
"Allow me to briefly share the
harrowing story of one of the witnesses whom the
Prosecution will call – she was a victim of rape. We
call her P-0350 in these proceedings, to protect her
P-0350 will testify about how on 16
December 2010, she was marching towards the headquarters
of the RTI. She was supporting the Rassemblement des
Républicains or RDR – Ouattara's political party.
Because of her political affiliation, she was arrested
by the Gendarmerie. She was then detained at the
Prefecture of the Police, with other civilians.
She was held separately with other
women for three days. During those dark three days, she
was raped – gang raped – at the Prefecture of the
Police, by armed gendarmes – whose very job it was to
protect civilians from violence.
The other women detained with her were
also repeatedly gang raped. P-0350 was subjected to
these heinous crimes because she merely joined a march
in support of Mr Ouattara. This Court must give hope to
the victims of such unspeakable crimes that justice will
be had, and that justice will prevail."
The prosecutor had this other
harrowing account -
"You will hear evidence that on 24
February 2011, Mr Laurent Gbagbo ordered his army not to
Your Honours, Abobo is a densely
populated neighbourhood of Abidjan. The majority of its
inhabitants come from the Northern parts of Côte
d'Ivoire. Following this order, Abobo became the theatre
of persecutory violence perpetrated by pro-Gbagbo
On 3 March 2011, over 3,000 women
gathered in Abobo to demand Mr Gbagbo's resignation and
to protest against human rights violations in their
neighbourhood. They carried only tree branches and
banners. They were unarmed. They were peaceful. Then an
FDS convoy driving from an FDS camp based in Abobo
opened fire at these unarmed demonstrators. Seven women
were murdered in cold-blood, several others were
injured; their shattered, bloodied bodies lay behind on
You will hear how Mr Gbagbo's government and the FDS
responded to this incident at the time – denying on the
state-controlled television any responsibility for the
killings. You will hear how the pro-Gbagbo media claimed
the incident was staged; how Gbagbo's Council of
Ministers claimed that allegations against the FDS were
fabricated, how Charles Blé Goudé said on 23 March 2011
that the FDS couldn't be responsible for this incident
because Abobo was in rebel hands at the time.
In the face of undeniable evidence
that these women were killed by shots fired from an FDS
vehicle, these repeated denials of FDS responsibility
are betraying the truth. And that truth is that Mr
Gbagbo and his inner circle intended to cover-up these
crimes; that these crimes were in fact perpetrated in
furtherance of their Common Plan.
The Prosecution will prove that these
denials were a coordinated fabrication.
We will show – from amongst the body
of evidence in this case - high-definition video footage
of the demonstration. The footage is distressing because
it captures the violent truth of what happened on 3
March 2011. You will see this footage and hear from an
expert who will testify to its authenticity. He will
confirm that the video is not a montage.
You will see how smoke emerges from
the canon of an FDS armoured vehicle, as it shoots at
the peaceful women demonstrators.
The Prosecution will prove beyond any
reasonable doubt that seven women were murdered on 3
March 2011, by the FDS. We will prove who these victims
were through the evidence of their relatives and
friends, and through DNA analysis. These women had
names; they were mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
These women who so violently died were very real. They
also became victims of the Accused's resort to violence
as politics by other means."
The trial and this scenario painted by
the words of the ICC Prosecutor should be a warning to
Sierra Leone's version of the Laurent Gbagbo murderous
and extremely violent campaign to stay in power at all
cost and more importantly his failure to investigate
reports of rape, murder and violence committed against
It is on record that despite promises
to investigate allegations of extreme violence and
murder by security forces, either no such investigations
were carried out or where they were done and reports and
recommendations published, nothing was done to bring the
perpetrators to justice. The murder of one Mustapha and
his female friend in which the police are reported to
have been involved in the investigations have come to
nought as rumours doing the rounds in Freetown say State
House knew more than it's occupants were ready to admit.
It took the bold move by the
Human Rights Commission of Sierra
Leone to bring to light the circumstances
leading to the murder of
unarmed protester Musu Conteh
who was deliberately shot and killed by security forces
under the direction and command of the rat at State
Recommendations by the Commission
continue to gather dust at State House even though the
perpetrators were clearly identified in the report.
The same callousness was displayed
after the Shears-Moses report after reports of violence,
including those of a sexual nature were levied against
members of the ruling APC party and security forces who
launched a broad daylight attack on the offices of the
opposition Sierra Leone People's party, the SLPP.
Again nothing was done after
the Kelvin Lewis report
into violence in Bo during the visit of the opposition
Presidential flag-bearer, one Julius Maada Bio who
received a head wound after he was attacked by alleged
ruling party supporters. During that violent
confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties,
one unarmed bike rider was shot dead by an armed
policeman, who was identified in the report. The killer
is believed to be still serving in a force that is known
to be the armed wing/militia of the ruling APC party.
It is worth noting what a rights group
in Sierra Leone had to say in an article titled -
in Promoting Accountability: The Sierra Leone Government
Must Implement the Recommendations of the Shears-Moses
Commission of Inquiry"
in which it stated in part -
"No state should condone or even give
an appearance of condoning violence. Every effort must
be made to prevent or combat violence, when it happens.
When the March 2008 wave of politically-motivated
violence happened, President Koroma had an opportunity
to put down a marker and set the tone for what the rest
of his tenure would look in terms of his government’s
approach to violence. Unfortunately, he failed to latch
on to it.
This piece seeks to examine how the
Sierra Leone government’s clear unwillingness to enforce
the recommendations contained in the report of the
Shears Moses Commission of Inquiry may have contributed
to subsequent incidents of violence.
It also examines the government’s
half-hearted commitment to implementing some of the
recommendations of the Commission. The Commission was
set up to look into the circumstances leading to the
incidents of politically-motivated violence in Gendema,
Freetown and Kenema, and the spate of intolerance
occurring in 2009. Led by one of Sierra Leone’s
distinguished legal practitioners, the Commission of
Inquiry was to investigate the role of politicians,
police officers, party supporters, and government
officials in the violence.
The Commission completed its work, and submitted a
report to the government in 2009.
It took the government nearly three
years to publish the report and a White Paper, contrary
to Section 149 (2) of the 1991 Constitution. The
President was required by law to publish the report and
a White Paper within six months of the date of the
submission of the report.
Additionally, Section 149(3) states
that where the report is not published, the President
shall issue a statement to the effect explaining reasons
for the delay. To clearly contravene a constitutional
provision not only hurts, but it also undermines efforts
to foster accountability at all levels in governance.
Yes, the President took an oath to uphold the
Constitution of Sierra Leone, and he must simply remain
committed to it. It’s simply unacceptable to do
otherwise. His legal advisers should know better!
We would again remind the rat, the
uncaring smoke and mirrors occupant of State House that
the ICC can intervene where a state displays an
unwillingness or inability to bring to justice people
who commit human rights abuses in that state as was
witnessed in the Ivory Coast scenario.
And also to remind them of what the
ICC Prosecutor said on Thursday.
"Despite the severity of the crime,
there was no official investigation into the murder of
these seven women. In fact, there was no genuine
investigation of any of the crimes committed by the FDS
or the pro-Gbagbo youth, militia and mercenaries; only
While in a position to do so, Mr
Gbagbo never ordered the murder, physical violence, rape
and persecution of civilians carried out in his name to
His actions and deliberate inaction
led to the commission of crimes. As Mr Gbagbo told the
FDS on 27 August 2010: "If errors are made, we will
handle the situation."
And he did, and you will hear how
during this trial. In such efforts, he was supported by
Charles Blé Goudé. Mr Blé Goudé never instructed the
youth to refrain from any kind of physical violence. On
the contrary; we will adduce evidence that he in fact
intervened to direct their actions, to tell them they
should be better organized, and to carry on their "good
And it is ironic that it was the rat
who was sent to Ivory Coast to persuade Laurent Gbagbo
not to extend his term in office illegally with his then
Information minister I B Kargbo hinting on the use of
force should Gbagbo refuse to leave power.