International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Requests for Closed-Door Sessions Annoy the Judge in the Gbagbo – Blé Goudé Trial

The day of May 16 was marked by a relentless succession of closed-door sessions and the testimony of P-576, a close relative to a victim in the Abobo women’s march on 3 March 2011.

Closed session after closed session…. In the Prosecutor vs. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé case, hearings are often interspersed with closed sessions, but in this regard, the day of May 16 was particularly grueling even for Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser, who found these closed-door sessions too repetitive. At the end of the day, after yet another request for a closed session, he addressed the defense, the prosecution and the victims’ representative: “I’m now talking to all of you… I think you are exaggerating a bit [with closed-door sessions].”

So it was a hearing often held behind closed doors that saw a new witness appear in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday. Despite numerous closed-door sessions, it was possible to have a description of this Abobo man, apparently a rather old man, since he said he lived in the City of Abidjan for over 45 years. He also said he knew a person (called “individual A” in public hearing) who was killed during the Abobo women’s march on 3 March 2011.

No “feelings” during testimonies before the Court

The Deputy Prosecutor showed the man a video of the march, where gunfire is heard and then dead and wounded people are seen. The witness said he watched this video on France 24 and added that he recognized “individual A” on this video.

Massida Paolina, the victims’ representative, questioned the man on the ceremonies to pay homage to the dead in the march. Her last question was on the “feelings” of the victim today. This question was brushed aside by the judge, who made it clear that even though the Court understood the pain of the witness, this was “a statement,” and “feelings” were therefore not in order.

In Abobo, “FDS and rebel groups” clashed everywhere

Jennifer Naouri, a lawyer for Laurent Gbagbo, took over the examination. Here we learned that the witness was aware of the shooting around 10am that day. He then asked a relative to go to the scene to see what had happened. This person allegedly found “individual A” dead. The witness then went to the Banco Crossroads, and when he got there, all corpses had been removed and there remained only wounded people.

Then in the last part of her questioning for the day, Naouri focused on security in Abobo. “There was fighting everywhere [in Abobo],” the witness said. “Who was fighting?” Naouri asked. “The FDS [Defense and Security Forces] and rebel groups who had come along,” the witness answered.

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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.

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