THE decision by Trial Chamber 1 of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to continue to detain the former president of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, was littered with errors, the Appeals Chamber has said in a judgement, and has ordered a review of the matter.
Gbagbo and his former Youth Minister, Charles Blé Goudé, are accused of four counts of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 2010/2011 post-election violence in the country. Hostilities flared up after the presidential election result was disputed by supporters of the incumbent, Gbagbo, and his opponent, current President Alassane Ouattara.
In March this year, the ICC’s Trial Chamber 1 ruled that Gbagbo should continue to remain in detention. His lawyers appealed, and on July 19 the Appeals Chamber, while ordering a review of Gbagbo’s continued incarceration, noted that the Trial Chamber ‘committed a number of errors.’
The judgement, read by Judge Piotr Hofmanski, said the Trial Chamber was wrong to use Gbagbo’s advanced age, 72, against his release because ‘it is generally more appropriate for age to be considered in such a manner rather than as a factor that could evidence a motivation to abscond.’ The Trial Chamber also failed to consider the length of time Gbagbo had spent in detention and the state of his health, the judgement read.
The judge added: ‘Furthermore, despite the presumption of innocence and Mr Gbagbo’s right not to be compelled to testify or to confess guilt, the Trial Chamber erroneously relied on the fact that he has denied responsibility for crimes with which he is charged.’
In this regard, the Appeals Chamber reversed the decision to keep Gbagbo in detention and sent the matter back to the Trial Chamber for a new review, adding that it was in no way ‘suggesting or predetermining what the outcome of the Trial Chamber’s new review should be.’
For now, the former Ivorian leader stays in detention, which could be a while longer, given the slow nature in which matters are dealt with at the ICC.
The trial of Gbagbo, the first African leader to appear before the ICC, and Blé Goudé began in January 2016. But the former president’s supporters are saying that it is a case of victor’s justice: whereby only those facing trial are from the losing side.
Indeed, some senior members of pro-Ouattara forces, which have also been accused of committing atrocities during the armed conflict in the country, are now in power even though the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the ICC had promised to investigate their alleged crimes.
When the OTP opened an investigation into the actions of both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara forces, the Prosecutor said that attacks directed against civilians were widespread and systematic and that about one million people were displaced.