Laurent Gbagbo’s acquittal: appeals hearing in the Hague

Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the hearing held before the ICC on January 15, 2019 Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the hearing held before the ICC on January 15, 2019 ICC-CPI

22 June 2020

ICC prosecutor aims to reverse the acquittals of former Ivorian president and youth minister, charged with crimes against humanity

On June 22, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held the latest hearings in the case brought against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, respectively former president and youth minister of Cote d’Ivoire. The Chamber’s judgement is not immediately expected, but any decision will surely bear heavy consequences for the near future of the West African country.

Laurent Gbagbo began his political career as a staunch opponent of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, first Ivorian president after the country’s independence and until 1993. He became president himself in 2000, after general elections were held and street demonstrations forced the military junta to step down. In 2010, Gbagbo ’s second term came to an end and new elections were called. In December 2010, Alassane Ouattara, former prime minister under Boigny, won the runoff, but the president refused to step down. Whereas the Independent Electoral Commission declared Ouattara the winner, the Constitutional Council rushed to invalidate 600.000 votes and overturned the results. Months of escalating violence followed, until Gbagbo was apprehended by his rival’s forces, backed by French troops and UN peacekeepers. The conflict cost the lives of about 3.000 people.

Gbagbo was arrested for crimes against humanity and brought to the Hague: he became the first head of state to face trial before the ICC. His former youth minister, Charles Blé Goudé, was also brought before the Court. Gbagbo and Goudé were tried on four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution. Such crimes were allegedly committed between December 2010 and April 2011, in Abidjan, Abobo and Yopougon. The two cases were joined in 2015, the trial began in January 2016. Three years later, Trial Chamber I acquitted both defendants of all charges.

Gbagbo and Goudé were therefore released but forced to stay in Belgium, their passports revoked. In September 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda submitted an appeal against the acquittal decision, described as “legally and procedurally defective”. As the appeals hearing begins, Cote d’Ivoire is preparing for the upcoming elections, scheduled for October 2020. Although an Ivorian court sentenced Gbagbo to a 20-year prison term, his supporters would be eager to see him running for president again.


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Author: Ester Zangrandi

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