Thanks to witness P-97’s clearly expressed desire to make his testimony in public, the Gbagbo / Blé Goudé trial escaped a second consecutive day of closed-door sessions. P-97 took advantage of the open court to challenge the prosecution’s methodology, and he portrayed a post-2002 Patriotic Galaxy against a background of jealousy and strong desire to be in the army.
At 11:45 AM, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser delivered the chamber’s majority decision: P-97’s testimony will be made in closed-door session. Despite the willingness to have public hearings, the chamber said that attempts to discover the name of the witness on social networks motivated this decision aimed at protecting the witness.
Closed-door: first yes, and then no
However, P-97 started speaking: “I came here to contribute to the establishment of the truth…I wish to proceed with the testimony in public.”
The parties stood and talked in turn. On the prosecution’s side, lead lawyer Eric MacDonald talked about the chamber’s responsibility to protect “regardless of the witness’s wishes” and therefore called for testimony in camera.
In contrast, Emmanuel Altit, Laurent Gbagbo’s French lawyer, called on the court not to “patronize” the witness. “I do not understand this desire to disempower human beings who have faced their responsibilities,” he said. The same story came from Charles Blé Goudé’s defense lawyer, N’Dry Claver. He considered the witness as the person who is the most capable of appreciating “the security or insecurity in which he can find himself.” He also recalled that the witness had wanted to testify only if his testimony was public.
The judges decided to deliberate again for about 15 minutes. Upon their return, Tarfusser announced: “Given what the witness has just said…the chamber decides that the testimony will continue in public.” However, the Italian judge issued a stern warning to those seeking to disclose information which may reveal the identity of the witness,”if such interference…continues…the chamber could take action including the suspension of open court proceedings.”
The examination was to resume, but the witness began a monologue questioning the prosecution’s methodology. He turned to the presentation of a video in which Blé Goudé introduced himself as the “general of the streets.”
“Mr. MacDonald, things do not work well this way!” said the witness, who thought that the time the video was broadcast gave the impression that his testimony went with the “hypothesis” that Blé Goudé “was the boss of the Patriotic Galaxy” and that “potential excesses and crimes could therefore be ascribed to him.”
To express disagreement with this, he added: “When I see Blé Goudé saying [on television] he is the president of all this [all groups that form the Patriotic Galaxy], I really don’t care.” He stated: “Just as Blé Goudé pretended he was the leader of all this, some leaders were calling themselves field marshals. That means they could not submit to his authority.”
After this speech, Judge Tarfusser reprimanded the witness: “You are not here to give lessons to the prosecutor…nor to the defense. You are here to answer questions.” Before continuing, MacDonald briefly returned to this: “Do not try to read my mind…We’ll come back later to all these sub-groups within the Galaxy, don’t worry.”
A strong desire to get into the army
When asked about the parliaments and agoras, the witness turned again to their content. MacDonald asked a question about “themes for the defense of the fatherland” developed during these gatherings from 2002. “We are in an era where poverty is widespread, said Witness P-97. We did not need a theme to mobilize young people in the military, the self-defense movements or militias.” He went on: “As everyone thinks, by simply being in a militia or vigilante movement, one would be automatically enrolled in the army when the country is stabilized…this was enough to mobilize…young people jostled and everyone wanted to be in the army.”
The witness then explained that the expression “Patriotic Galaxy” only came into existence in 2003 because before that, there was the Youth Alliance for National Revival (AJSN).
Blé Goudé, the object of jealousy?
He then went back to the jealousy Blé Goudé provoked because of his relationship with Gbagbo. These “unhappy” leaders in the Galaxy allegedly told the witness that they felt that “Blé Goudé received money from the Presidency.” He gave the example of a demonstration by the patriots: “They did not understand why Blé Goudé was in a vehicle while they had to go on foot.” According to the witness, many leaders were complaining. He gave numbers affiliated to names on a list given by the Prosecutor’s Office. In the witness’s opinion, this proximity between Blé Goudé and the Presidency also probably was the reason for the “proliferation of movements” within the Patriotic Galaxy. “Many felt that for the president [Gbagbo] to receive you, you had to have a group,” he explained.
The witness finally talked with MacDonald about 2004 and “Operation Dignity” or the mobile courts in 2006. MacDonald was lectured by Blé Goudé’s defense for asking too general questions or leading questions, but after another question, the prosecutor ventures a snide remark in the form of a question to the defense: “Is it okay, not too general?” This “private joke” is not to the liking of Judge Tarfusser who in turn reprimands the prosecutor, “There is nothing funny in this trial.”
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.