Charles Blé Goudé Makes Initial Appearance at the ICC

Charles Blé Goudé, a close ally of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, made his initial appearance today before a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Mr. Blé Goudé is charged with four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution, and other inhuman acts allegedly committed in Cote d’Ivoire during the violence that followed the country’s election in late 2010. He was transferred to the ICC’s custody in The Hague on March 22, 2014.

Pre-trial chamber judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi informed Mr. Blé Goudé that the purpose of today’s hearing was not meant to determine guilt or innocence, or to hear evidence from any party. Rather, the hearing was limited to making clear that Mr. Blé Goudé had been informed of the charges against him, that he had been informed of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC, and for the chamber to set a date for the confirmation of charges hearing.

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, and a blue tie, the former Ivorian youth leader told the judge that he was fully aware of the charges against him and that he had been informed of all rights to which he was entitled.

Given the chance to make a statement, Mr. Blé Goudé told the court that his trip to the ICC will not be a one-trip journey, as is believed by many.

“I do know that I will go back to my home,” he told the court.

Mr. Blé Goudé explained that he had been subjected to inhumane treatment with no respect for his rights while he was detained in his home country. He said he had been “abducted” for 14 months and for 10 months, he had not been allowed to see anybody.

He told the judge that upon his transfer to the ICC in The Hague, he had been treated as a real human being and for which he thanked the court. Mr. Blé Goudé used the opportunity to condemn the Ivorian authorities, accusing them of wanting to use prison to “break the spirit of political adversaries.” Emphasizing his belief in “reconciliation and dialogue,” he said that attempts to blame him for the violence and crimes in his country following the disputed elections in 2010 were false.

“I don’t want to be a disgrace to my generation, I don’t want to be a disgrace to my family and children,” he told the court.

Throughout the proceedings, Mr. Blé Goudé smiled and raised his hands to his supporters, many of whom were seated in the court’s public gallery.

Mr. Blé Goudé’s defense counsel, Nicholas Kaufman, informed the judge that his client intends to make an application for interim release. There are efforts to find a country willing to take Mr. Blé Goudé if granted interim release, Mr. Kaufman told the judge.

A hearing to confirm charges against Mr. Blé Goudé will commence on August 18, 2014.