Nothing to be Seen: A Whole Day of Closed Sessions at the Gbagbo – Blé Goudé Trial

The day’s hearing at the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) was held in private.

It was impossible to know whether witness P-97 was interviewed yesterday by the Office of the Prosecutor. Yesterday’s hearing was marked by several closed doors, but today’s was totally inaccessible to the public from beginning to the end.

Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser had previously asked the parties, defense and prosecution, not to request so many closed sessions, but there is in fact no doubt that these sessions have now become commonplace.

What could be the motives for those closed-door sessions?

Closed-door sessions are held at the request of participants in the trial (defense, prosecution, or representatives of victims), the judges, or the witnesses themselves. They are motivated by the need to be able to discuss specific topics containing information, which should not be made public.

The most common example is a closed-door session justified by the need to guarantee the anonymity of a witness because his or her answers could reveal the witness’s identify. Sometimes, it can also be to protect the names of victims or witnesses that should not be disclosed but are discussed in court.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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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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