Freed Gbagbo still shackled by the ICC

Ex-president Laurent Gbagbo

ALTHOUGH the former President of Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, has been freed by the International Criminal Court (ICC), after being acquitted of crimes against humanity, he continues to be shackled by the Court.

He is to stay in Belgium, one of the conditions of his release.

This was agreed by the Belgian government after the Appeals Chamber unanimously released Gbagbo and one of his former ministers, Charles Blé Goudé, on February 1.

It was not known which country would take Blé Goudé.

The Judges ruled that both men should “surrender all identity documents, particularly their passports, to the Registry”.

They were also to ‘report weekly to the law enforcement authorities of the receiving state or the Registry.’

Another condition was for Gbagbo and Blé Goudé ‘not to make public statements, directly or through any other person, about the case or be in contact with the public or speak to the press concerning the case.’

The Judges added: ‘Should Mr Gbagbo or Mr Blé Goudé not comply with the above conditions, the Appeals Chamber will revisit the matter.’

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) said that it had been ‘amenable’ to the release of the two men ‘with a set of conditions attached.’

The OTP said ‘these conditions would be to ensure’ that Gbagbo and Blé Goudé ‘would be available before the Court should the trial proceedings against them continue.’

The conditions have been placed on the two men by the ICC because the OTP said it was going to appeal against the January 15 decision to acquit Gbagbo and Blé Goudé of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the two men in Cote d’Ivoire between 2010 and 2011 during the country’s civil war.

‘At this point, the Prosecution team is still waiting for the Judges of Trial Chamber I to provide their written decision detailing the legal reasons for their decision to acquit,’ Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

‘Only after we have had the opportunity to carefully examine and analyse their reasoning will my Office make a decision on whether to appeal.’

Legal experts believe that the OTP is just trying to save face after yet another poor performance.

ICC Judges themselves said the prosecution’s case was ‘exceptionally weak.’

The legal experts now wonder where the Prosecution is going to get new evidence from in order to be able to put up a credible case.

After their acquittal on January 15, lawyers for Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, expected their clients to be released.

But the two men were however kept in detention, which legal experts said was unprecedented.

The Appeals Chamber ordered that they be detained until the appeal by the OTP was heard on February 1.

Thijs Bouwknegt, a Dutch historian and former journalist, has, since 2006, attended and covered all ICC (pre-) trials in The Hague.

Writing for JUSTICEINFO.NET on January 31, he said of the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé case: ‘From the beginning, the Prosecution had built its crimes against humanity case on anonymous hearsay evidence from NGO reports and press articles.

‘Such pieces of evidence may serve as first drafts of history, sketch context and provide leads, but they cannot, wrote the pre-trial chamber in June 2013, ‘in any way be presented as the fruits of a full and proper investigation.’

‘In a somewhat unexpected move of judicial lenience, the same pre-trial chamber…gave the OTP five extra months to collect evidence that would withstand the lowest threshold of legal scrutiny required to confirm the charges.

‘But the writing on the wall was clear of what was going to happen if the Prosecutor could not deliver,’ Bouwknegt added.



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