The second day of Sam-the-African’s cross-examination was marked by discussions about the events of November 2004, including the role of France during this time, with the direct involvement of the French army in the death of civilians. This implication was recognized by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
2002, 2004, 2010. It was almost as if the public present at the hearing this Tuesday was invited to an examination of the recent history of Côte d’Ivoire from all angles, through the eyes of Sam-the-African.
Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, continued the cross-examination. Witness P-44 once again emphasized France’s involvement in Ivorian affairs since 2002. According to him, France, among others, created the rebellion that emerged during the failed coup of September 19, 2002.
Current events made their way into the courtroom. Three former ministers, who worked under [French] President Jacques Chirac, could soon be summoned to appear before the French National Court of Justice (CJR – Cour de justice de la République) for intentionally acting to help Belarusian mercenaries suspected of involvement in the bombing of Bouake that killed nine French soldiers and an American humanitarian worker escape legal proceedings. This judicial event was mentioned in a long-winded speech mixing analyses and the account of real-life happenings the witness lived through during the 2004 events.
“The prosecution admits that the French forces fired on protesters …”
“We could hear the shots, the French army unleashing a heavy barrage of shots at the civilian population,” explained Sam to the court in his account of how he experienced this crisis. According to him, the Patriots were everywhere to prevent the French army from reaching the President’s office. At the time, these Patriots (those who defend the motherland) included many “northerners.” He added: “People [the French army] fired at close range…10 to 15mm cartridges…there were more than 80 dead.”
After a short video that showed pictures of dead and wounded people near Hotel Ivoire, where one could hear shooting, ICC lead prosecutor Eric MacDonald spoke: “The prosecution admits that French forces fired on protesters and that there were deaths.” The prosecution says it consequently accepts the video and the events of November 6, 2004, although it stated that the number of deaths has not been determined.
Sam-the-African specified in his testimony that those responsible for these events “were never prosecuted.”
Campaign slogans are certainly not offensive
Altit then turned to the question of slogans and the famous “we win or we win,” one of Laurent Gbagbo’s campaign slogans. Antoinette Allany’s song (which inspired the slogan) was played, and, according to the French counsel, the witness interpreted it as a “faith-based song” as its lyrics showed. Sam-the-African once again said that this is a festive song and that the campaign slogans are just as harmless as the songs that may have inspired them. The strategy of the defense here is to show, by extension, that there was no hidden desire to remain in power at any cost behind Gbagbo’s slogan “we win or we win.”
The defense also wanted to highlight the lack of a plan by returning to the words of Sam-the-African during his questioning by MacDonald. “Not planned” and “disorder:” these were the words that the defense highlighted. The witness also repeated that he meant “all sides,” pro-Gbagbo as well as pro-Ouattara, when he insisted that during the post-electoral crisis, “no one was in control.”
When lawyers scuffle
The cross-examination was yet again another opportunity for Sam-the-African to reiterate his vision of “President Gbagbo” as a democrat, a champion of the freedom of the press, and the multiparty system.
There was a small clash at the end of the hearing between Altit and MacDonald. A confrontation that concluded a day riddled with affronts (and more rarely, amiability) from both sides. Responding to Altit, who said that everyone understood what the witness was saying except the prosecutor, Eric MacDonald retorted: ”There you’re playing to the gallery, we are not pleading to the gallery!”
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser then stopped the trial. Not because of this verbal battle but because of time. The judge specified all the same that this was a good opportunity to “calm things down.” The trial resumes tomorrow.
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.