Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé defense teams have, throughout today’s hearing, highlighted the contradictions and inaccuracies in the testimony of witness P-441, who appeared Wednesday before the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the third consecutive day.
In almost all his questions, Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyer Andreas O’Shea tried to undermine the credibility of P-441, the sixth witness in the Gbagbo – Blé Goudé trial. Still present in the courtroom virtually through video conferencing, P-441 talked to the British lawyer from Abidjan.
“How many people were in the CECOS [Command Center for Security Operations] vehicles?” O’Shea asked in reference to security force vehicles present. According to the witness, on February 25, 2011, the day of the incident, “I could not determine it.”
“Why not?” O’Shea responded. “I wonder why you cannot tell me how many people were in the vehicles.”
“I did not count them,” the witness said.
In the same vein, O’Shea repeatedly read excerpts from witness statements. The lawyer more or less implicitly expressed the contradictions he felt: “Am I to conclude that the statements I have just read are not correct?”
“There is a little difference,” replied P-441.
Was the Mosque guard seen alive somewhere after he was cut up?
Prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald did not like the manner in which the defense conducted the cross-examination. He repeatedly interrupted O’Shea. These interruptions, motivated by a series of questions that MacDonald considered vain, did not sit well with Gbagbo’s lawyer, who retorted, “My learned colleague is the one who is running in circles and unnecessarily interrupting my examination.”
Regarding the death of the Mosque guard, O’Shea confronted the witness: “Didn’t you say [to Amnesty International in 2011] that you saw him being killed…Now I’m telling you that you never saw him getting killed.” The witness reiterated that he did see Mr. Cissé [the guard] being cut into pieces and that he “never saw him again” after that. O’Shea suggested that someone spoke to Cissé after the February 25 incident.
Inaccuracies and dissimilarities
Agathe Baroan, Gbagbo’s Ivorian lawyer, took over. She pointed out some related facts, like the character Maguy-the-loser including his arrest by the FRCI [Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire] and his role as an indicator for them and also the February 25 incident itself.
On this last point, she attempted to demonstrate the lack of credibility of the testimony. However, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser did not like some of the questions, which he considered as comments.
“I asked the witness why he did not hide at the sight of guns firing at the doors (on the morning of 25 February) while he hid out when the youths arrived later in the day?” Baroan justified. The lawyer also tried to highlight the differences between what the witness said in court and what he had said before his appearance at the ICC.
Agbolo, Blé Goudé’s bodyguard?
Finally, it was the defense of Charles Blé Goudé turn to speak, less than an hour before the end of the day. Zokou Seri, Blé Goudé’s Ivorian lawyer, used the same Gbagbo team strategy, emphasizing the dissimilarities he considered proven between the witness’s various statements. This was particularly the case regarding the witness’s age at the time of his first job. He also attempted to point out that there are inaccuracies in the testimony, for instance on the meaning of Agbolo’s name.
The witness’s last answers were about Blé Goudé and the slogan “To each one his own Dioula,” which the witness called “aggressive” and “violent.” On the subject of the link between Blé Goudé and Agbolo, he repeated: “He introduced himself as Blé Goudé’s bodyguard.”
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.