Judge Tarfusser: “If We Keep On Like This, We’ll End The Trial in 2050!”

The February 8 hearing was marked by two observations of the Presiding Judge: the leaking of witnesses’ names is something very serious and the judicial process must accelerate.

“Incompetence”, “stupidity,” or “negligence”: these are the words used this morning by Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser to describe the potential reasons for the leaking of the names of four protected witnesses.

“The court apologizes to the witnesses [concerned],” said the judge in a serious tone. Considering that last Friday’s event was “extremely serious” and “incredible,” he confirmed the opening of an internal investigation.

For a reminder of the law, the judge insists that what happened is a “crime…contempt of court, an impediment to the administration of justice.” Members of the press, bloggers, and Internet users, even in Côte d’Ivoire, are forbidden to “reveal or disseminate the identity of protected witnesses,” he says.

Following this statement, cross-examination by Laurent Gbagbo’s defense resumes, still conducted by Andreas O’Shea.

Witness P-547, who came to the Netherlands 13 days ago and has been questioned by the court since last Wednesday [February 3], is again answering new questions from Gbagbo’s lawyers.

“You have an obligation to tell the truth!”

One of the lawyers seeks to find out if he recognizes Guillaume Soro on a video clip of an RTI news bulletin, which shows the former Prime Minister giving orders to soldiers. He replies: “It’s Blé Goudé who sent this video…I think it’s a montage…I cannot believe because I do not recognize this video.”

O’Shea asks him again if he recognizes Soro on the video. But the man repeats that he cannot answer. The judge becomes impatient and shouts out to the witness, “You are obliged to tell the truth! The question is precise…Do you recognize this person as Guillaume Soro?” The witness then complies: “Indeed, it is Guillaume Soro.”

Length and impatience

The witness is then questioned on several specific issues, and the questions and answers take time. For example, O’Shea asks how the journey to the RTI was organized. “Did the orders come from Golf Hotel?” the lawyer asks. “It was a crowd…we followed each other,” retorted the witness in a not very concise answer.

Then there are questions on the distance between the witness and the FDS [Security and Defense Forces] during the march or questions on the number of people around him. The witness says he does not know, he cannot answer. Faced with this set of questions and answers leading nowhere, the judge gets annoyed.

He first lectures lawyer O’Shea, who should “stop repeating [his question] because if the witness says he does not know, then so be it…It is for us to judge if he lies.” Then he turns to Witness P-547 and urges him to answer: “Just give an estimate!” The witness then answers and estimates the distance between him and the FDS equivalent to that between him and the judge.

Yet another 34 years of trial?

Ultimately, the judge, noting that it’s getting late, wants to stop the cross-examination. O’Shea requests an additional 15 minutes. The judge asks him to hurry because he wants the Ble Goude defense to begin and complete his questioning the next morning. “If we keep on like this, we’ll end the trial in 2050!” the judge jokes, despite his real concern.

Counsel for Gbagbo eventually takes less than five minutes. “In five minutes we were able to do what was to take 15 minutes, so much the better,” sighs Judge Tarfusser, relieved. It is as if he has just had proof that his fight against slowness was ultimately not in vain.


Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and other inhumane acts, or – in the alternative – attempted murder and persecution. The accused allegedly committed these crimes during post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011.

This summary comes from Ivoire Justice , a project of Radio Netherlands Worldwide(RNW), which offers monitoring and commentary on the ICC’s proceedings arising from the post-election violence that occurred in Cote d’Ivoire in 2010-2011. It has been translated into English for use on International Justice Monitor.