Yesterday, the new witness in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial discussed the workings of Ivorian institutions during the Gbagbo presidency. As he could potentially incriminate himself, he obtained exceptional rights from the ICC judges. P-520 appeared with his face hidden.
It did not take long for people to realize that the person testifying anonymously (for the public) and via videoconference yesterday before the International Criminal Court (ICC) had played an important role in the post-election crisis. Prosecution lawyer Alexis Demirchian talked about the position that witness P-520 occupied at the time of the war, a position of responsibility that led him to ask for guarantees against self-incrimination, in exchange for his testimony before the court.
Incriminating testimony, testimony in camera
According to the ICC Rules of Procedure, these protections against self-incrimination may be decided by the judges as soon as they consider it necessary.
Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser responded favorably to witness P-520’s request. Consequently, he explained that this guarantee provides that the evidence presented by the witness cannot be used “directly or indirectly against that person in any subsequent prosecution before the court” and that if self-incriminating questions are asked, the elements provided by the witness “shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed to the public or a State.”
According to the witness, Laurent Gbagbo “absolutely wanted” peace
Apart from this decision and many closed-door sessions, the public parts of Witness P-520’s testimony provided succinct elements, including the organization and functioning of the Presidency of the Republic at the time of Laurent Gbagbo. On this point, the witness mentioned, inter alia, the composition of the group “which ensured the physical security” of Gbagbo, a group composed mostly of members of the Republican Guard, coordinated by the Chief of Staff.
In public session, the witness also talked about the “disbanding of the vigilante groups” after the Ouagadougou agreement of 2007. “As far as I can remember, the President of the Republic, he said, had decided that vigilante groups should be disbanded and disarmed…he no longer wanted there to be any more armed groups because we were heading for peace and elections.” He added that Gbagbo “absolutely wanted there to be peace.”
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.