The Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC), by majority, Judge Herrera Carbuccia dissenting, acquitted Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé from all charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 and 2011.
As a consequence, the Chamber on Tuesday ordered the release of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé.
Gbagbo was on April 11, 2011 arrested in a joint raid by French forces and fighters loyal to President-elect Alassane Ouattara following disputed results of a runoff election held Nov. 28, 2010.
The operation came after weeks of fighting and a weeklong siege of Mr. Gbagbo, who barricaded himself in the bunker under his presidential palace, refusing to cede the presidency.
The international community and much of Africa accepted the official results in which Gbagbo won 46 percent of the vote, but Gbagbo’s supporters claimed vote rigging and attempted to have half a million votes in pro-Ouattara areas struck from the voting rolls.
The African Union and numerous other delegations attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement, but neither side would accept the other’s presence at the negotiating table.
Forces loyal to Ouattara lost patience as the stalemate dragged on, and eventually they went on the offensive, sweeping rapidly from their northern strongholds to the crucial port of San Pedro, to the capital of Yamousoukoro and on to Abidjan, the country’s commercial center.
Gbagbo was later captured and sent to ICC for trial.
The Prosecutor brought against Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé charges of crimes against humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution) allegedly committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011.
Judges Cuno Tarfusser (presiding) and Geoffrey Henderson, forming the Majority of the Chamber, noted the violent political conflict in the context of the 2010 presidential elections, in Abidjan and in other parts of the country.
The Majority, however, considered that the Prosecutor has “failed to submit sufficient evidence to demonstrate the responsibility” of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé for the incidents under the Chamber’s scrutiny.
In particular, having thoroughly analysed the evidence, the Chamber concluded by majority that the Prosecutor has failed to “demonstrate several core constitutive elements of the crimes” as charged, including the existence of a “common plan” to keep Mr Gbagbo in power, which included the “commission of crimes” against civilians “pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organisational policy”; and the existence of patterns of violence from which it could be inferred that there was a “policy to attack a civilian population”.
Furthermore, the Chamber concluded, by majority, that the Prosecutor failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Mr Gbagbo or Mr Blé Goudé constituted “ordering, soliciting or inducing” the alleged crimes.
The Chamber decided that, accordingly, there is no need for the defence to submit further evidence.
A fully reasoned decision will be issued in writing in due course. The Prosecutor may appeal the decision after the full decision is filed.
However, the Prosecutor may request that the duo remain in detention for exceptional reasons.
Trial Chamber I will hear the parties and participants on this matter today.
ICC has been previously accused of being a tool of western imperialists.
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 said ICC stopped being the home of justice the day it became the toy of declining imperial powers.
The Kenyan President added that African countries had made sacrifices for their independence and asked foreign powers to respect their sovereignty.
The AU would later pass a resolution that no serving leaders should be subjected to prosecution by ICC.