After a recess of over a month, the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed this Monday, May 9, with P-441, the sixth witness, a victim of a pro-Gbagbo attack against the Lem Mosque in Yopougon.
The day’s hearing, the first since March, focused on witness P-441’s testimony. The identity of the man, who answered questions from Prosecutor Eric MacDonald by videoconference, was hidden from the public. His image and his voice were distorted.
Still as a means of protection, the hearing was interspersed with several closed sessions. However, we quickly learned that P-441 was at the Lem Mosque (or Antenna Mosque) in Yopougon in the Yao Sehi neighborhood, on this February 25 at about 4:00pm, for Friday prayers.
Before questioning him about the violence that occurred on that day, MacDonald first asked questions on the time prior to the crisis and Charles Blé Goudé’s visits to Yopougon. The witness said that before the crisis broke up, Blé Goudé “often held meetings with those who at the time were called the militia…in the CDC parliament.” He stated that he had also seen Blé Goudé with Agbolo (a former leader of the Student Federation, FESCI, whose real name was Hia Bi Ba Romaric).
The witness once more talked about the militiamen when he was clearly asked about the day of Friday, February 25. He says that at prayer time, they forced their entry into the Mosque after first throwing stones over the fence. He also mentioned the presence of uniformed men, “uniformed service personnel” who probably came in CECOS (Command Centre for Security Operations) vehicles.
“If I screamed, he was going to shoot”
P-441 said that during the attack, he saw Agbolo and Maguy-the-loser, the leader of the militia group, walk toward him and Mr. Cissé, the Mosque night guard. Then they both decided to hide in the Mosque courtyard, among the banana trees. However, “people had climbed over the fence and they saw us.” Maguy-the-loser then came to them with Agbolo. He narrated: “The guard was hit with the butt of a gun and they stole everything.”
“Agbolo made me kneel” said P-441. “My head was pinned to the ground and my buttocks were naked. He put the barrel of his gun into my anus. He said that if I screamed he was going to shoot.”
“Let’s just cut him up”
The witness said that a beggar was also with them and that “they did the same to him.” Cissé held a grigri in his hand. Maguy-the-loser snatched it from him. Then “they cut off Mr. Cissé’s hand and gave it to me,” the witness testified. “They said: ’if you don’t take it, you know how you’ll end up.’ So I took the hand. It was still moving a little.”
The witness then said that there was a sewer manhole a little farther into which they tried to dump Cissé. “But they were unable to do it”, he said. “That was when Maguy-the-loser said ‘let’s just cut him up’.”
After they cut him up, the men allegedly asked the witness to give back Cissé’s hand before setting fire to the guard’s body parts.
Then Macdonald asked one of his last questions for the day: “What about the members of the Presidential Guard? What did they do?” The witness responded: “They came to help the others…They came to take the carpets, the microphones from the Mosque…they came to steal.”
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.