The cross-examination of Nigel Walker, the director of the documentary about Blé Goudé and the Young Patriots, focused on many points. Gbagbo’s defense lingered on the rebellion while Blé Goudé’s wanted to show an image of tolerance and debate, thereby challenging the image conveyed by the witness through the facts that he had recounted to the prosecution.
“Am I correct in saying that when you use the phrase Young Patriots, you are referring to all of Laurent Gbagbo’s young supporters?” asked Andreas O’Shea, one of Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyers.
“No, that’s not my understanding of things,” responded the director of the Shadow Work documentary who, however, said that in his opinion, the Pan African Youth and Patriots Congress (COJEP) and the Young Patriots are part of the same thing. An affirmation brushed aside by O’Shea, who said that the “Young Patriots” encompassed a broader reality than COJEP. The witness, Nigel Walker, disagreed.
O’Shea then asked if the witness thought that “this generation wanted to get rid of French influence?” The witness said, “Yes, it was a concern.” The defense lawyer also asked, “Was the desire to disarm the rebels a recurring theme for the Young Patriots?” The witness responded, “For some, yes, it was.”
Those responsible for September 19, 2002
O’Shea then returned to the interviews that the witness conducted with Wattao (Issiaka Ouattara, a rebel leader) and Sidiki Konate (a former minister from the rebellion). Later in the hearing a video was shown, in which he claimed to have received a call from Guillaume Soro in September 2002 asking him to return from Germany. “We did it, we are the ones who did it [the September 19, 2002 attempted coup],” Soro allegedly said to him, before adding that they now needed to “build a political organization to justify the use of weapons.”
Blé Goudé’s defense took longer than usual in their cross-examination. Geert-Jan Knoops, the Dutch lawyer for Blé Goudé, first examined the witness on authenticating the identity of the people he interviewed when making his documentary centered on Blé Goudé’s “shadow work.” For his security, he said, he did not think to “ask for identity papers” of the people he interviewed.
“Did Mr. Blé Goudé intimidate you at any time?” Knoops asked. “Never,” replied the witness. A video is then presented, in which Blé Goudé is seen calling on Ivoirians not to boycott the public hearings. “Is this opinion the one that Mr. Blé Goudé defended when he talked with you?” Walker said, “Yes.”
Côte d’Ivoire “has decided to wean itself from France’s breast milk”
Knoops showed videos that convey the image of a Blé Goudé tolerant of all ethnic groups and religions. In one of them, Blé Goudé talked to youths in the Palace of Culture: “You are young Dioulas, young Bétés…You are the Côte d’Ivoire that has decided to wean itself from France’s breast milk!”
In another video, we saw a Blé Goudé who explicitly says that the Young Patriots have no weapons. Here, the witness says, “I met people [Young Patriots] who told me they had weapons.”
Knoops also called into question the ability of the witness to distinguish the Young Patriots. “How can you distinguish a youth from a Young Patriot?” he asked. According to the witness, this can be done thanks to the context. Knoops insisted, to know how he did it without the context. The witness repeated: “You cannot remove the context!”
Blé Goudé’s call for discussion not representative, according to Nigel Walker
Zokou Seri, a lawyer for Blé Goudé, finished the interrogation of Walker. Like his colleague, he discussed several topics.
“Can you tell us if these roadblocks (which, according to the witness, were on the road between Abidjan and Yamoussoukro) had been installed at the call of Blé Goudé?” the lawyer asked. “No I cannot tell you,” replied Walker.
A video of the July 26, 2006 Versailles agreements was presented. It showed Blé Goudé calling on political parties to discuss public hearings to “prevent our country from becoming another Rwanda,” according to the accused as heard in this video.
“Why don’t you refer to this clip?” Zokou asked. Walker justified: “It does not reflect my experience…when I attended meetings of the Young Patriots or when I was present at roadblocks…This sequence was not representative of what happened on those days.”
Listening to these words, Blé Goudé smiled.
No witness opinion in the court
Zokou Seri continued his questions by focusing on the newspapers provided by the witness to the prosecution. The lawyer accused the witness of having made a selection that excluded pro-Gbagbo newspapers.
First, the witness said that he brought the newspapers because “it was simply to confirm dates and events” he had witnessed. According to him, the only purpose of this selection “was to corroborate the events” that appeared in his film, thanks to these facts reported by the newspapers.
Zokou then called into question the impartiality of the witness: “In light of your actions…do you think you behaved as a neutral, honest, and at least impartial journalist?” President Judge Cuno Tarfusser intervened, addressing the witness: “Please, do not answer this question…It’s an opinion.”
Zokou briefly retorted: “I thought that at some point we could ask the witness’s opinion.” He then announced he has finished his examination. Walker is thanked. A short discussion on issues of stewardship begins. The next witness is scheduled to appear on June 6.
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.