The questioning of the second witness continued on Wednesday in a relatively calm atmosphere.
We’ll have to accelerate. At the beginning of the hearing, Judge Cuno Tarfusser announces that he gives the parties until Wednesday, February 17, (the date of the court recess) to question the next three witnesses, including today’s witness.
That said, the questioning of the second witness in the trial resumed. Responding to questions from the prosecution, the man tells about the events of February 25, 2011.
He returns to what he said the day before about the young pro-Gbagbo militants. He claims people were throwing stones at him and other Yopougon Doukouré district residents.
“They came to burn our neighborhood…We pushed them back to the 16th district…to the police station.” According to the witness, all this was happening at the boundary of his neighborhood: the pro-Gbagbo groups were in the opposite neighborhood, Yao Séi, helped by “many” FDS members. The stones were then accompanied with bullets and tear gas fired by police.
“You see people fall down,” the witness said. “I tried to escape, but I saw that my leg was broken, people were fleeing, people were wounded…and I could not move.” He said it was only later that he understood that it was a grenade that had injured his foot. “It was torn,” he said before showing the judges the right side of his neck: “I also was injured there.”
“Do you know who threw the grenade?” the prosecution lawyer asks. “I saw a policeman firing…I do not know what weapon it was,” the man replied. The lawyer continues, “And there were wounded people around you?” The witness confirms, “Yes, there were many wounded,” adding: “There were some who were dead…someone had his hand cut off, it was hanging.”
“I saw fire coming out of the tank…they targeted the mosque”
Then the witness describes the arrival of a riot squad (BAE) tank. A tank came and was positioned near the mosque not far away. “I saw fire coming out of the tank…they targeted the mosque” he recounts, specifying that the attack took place simultaneously with the police firing on Doukouré residents. He describes the many roadblocks in Yopougon where he says the Dioula were targeted.
It was only the next day that the man went to the hospital. The witness went to Yopougon University Hospital Center (CHU) where he spent one week. The medical certificate resulting from this visit is presented to the court and included in the prosecution file as evidence. The doctor’s observation reads: “Compound fracture of the right leg following a shooting incident.”
Then the Office of the Prosecutor shares photographs with the court. The man was wounded in the leg but also the neck, hips, arms, and back. In the hospital it was explained to him that it was a grenade: “There were lots of little pieces…it was torn,” he explains.
Today, the man said he cannot walk properly, one of his legs is longer than the other; he was badly treated. They had put inferior quality plaster on his foot.
After finally answering the prosecution’s questions on crimes from before February 25, which he had directly witnessed or had heard about, the man spoke about Blé Goudé, whom he saw on television. “Really, I was scared that day,” he says referring to when he saw Blé Goudé talk on RTI before February 25.
“We know each other”
After a 30 minute break, Geert-Jan Knoops, lead counsel for Charles Blé Goudé, begins cross-examination and returns to what the witness said the day before, namely that it was as a result of Blé Goudé’s meeting at Le Baron Bar that pro-Gbagbo youths came and threw stones at Doukouré inhabitants. The Dutch lawyer makes it clear he finds it curious that the witness did not mention that fact in the statement to ICC investigators in 2014. “I never thought of that,” the witness justifies considering that he was only interested in his own injuries and did not know at the time that he would one day have to speak in court.
Another element Blé Goudé’s defense found dubious was how the witness knew that the men who came along were pro-Gbagbo. He replied: “We all know each other…Once you are there, you know what this means.”
Knoops’s questioning, which aimed at challenging the credibility of the testimony, concludes with this question: “Why didn’t the doctor mention your other injuries on the certificate?” The witness replied: “My problem was my foot.”
At the end of the hearing, Jean-Serges Gbougnon, a lawyer for Blé Goudé, was quickly interrupted in his questioning by an application for a partial closed session. During this session, it was possible to see (but not hear) the whole courtroom laugh heartily, presumably after a remark by the witness – a rare moment of relaxation in a trial where tense moments have become the norm.
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.