Witness P-97 Discusses Article 125, Looting, and Martin Luther King

For the first time since the beginning of the trial, Charles Blé Goudé’s defense took the lead in cross-examining the witness. Jean-Serge Gbougnon emphasized the lack of evidence for his client’s responsibility for the violent and discriminatory actions. As for the prosecution, it brought up some incriminating evidence.

Before the defense took the floor, lead prosecutor Eric MacDonald finished his questioning. He discussed several topics with Witness P-97.

Forms of violence

One of the topics was the youths’ fight with Abidjan transporter operators. The witness explained that some saw transport operators (taxi drivers, Bakas, etc.) as those who “responded to Alassane Ouattara’s ‘nationwide shutdown’ slogan…the majority of transport operators are labeled as ADO supporters.”

Then the witness was questioned on the roadblocks, especially on “Article 125.”

“It was one form of violence, the witness answered. It meant taking people, beating them up, and then burning them.” The witness added that the “125” came from the fact that it took 100 francs of gasoline to spray the body of the victim, then 25 francs to buy matches. The prosecution then turned to discrimination.

The witness first stated that he saw looted shops, and their owners were mostly ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) nationals. MacDonald presented a video in which Blé Goudé is shown saying, “Mauritanians left their shops when they went back home…when they come back they will find new shopkeepers.”

Martin Luther King

Blé Goudé’s defense briefly came back to this statement, highlighting the absence, assumed by the defense, of a role played by Blé Goudé in the discrimination against the ECOWAS countries. Jean-Serge Gbougnon, Blé Goudé’s lawyer went back to the various points raised by the witness with MacDonald. For example, the witness reiterated what he considered as the difference between patriotic groups favoring violent action and those in favor of peaceful action. “The Alliance [AJSN] advocated ‘talks’ as the means to liberate the country…in accordance with Martin Luther King’s struggle,” he said. He added: “On the other side, they preferred…armed struggle.

Gbougnon also went back to the rivalries within the Patriotic Galaxy. He asked about a former group leader in the Galaxy: “Did Mr. Blé Goudé give orders to Mr. Eugene Djué?”  The witness answered: “Mr. Djué was the Field-Marshall.” This response sounded like a no.

Threats against foreigners

The witness was also invited to go back to the xenophobia that was prevalent in the 2010-2011 crisis. Gbougnon asked, “Did ECOWAS nationals…leave as a result of a specific request by Charles Blé Goudé?”

“I do not know,” the witness replied, adding that in his opinion, what mattered above all were the troops from ECOWAS countries. He explained that people could threaten these ECOWAS nationals, saying for example, “if people from your country come here, you’ll have to deal with us.” P-97 saw this as “a popular reflex.”

About the looting, Gbougnon asks, “Did Mr. Blé Goudé issue a call to loot?” The witness said, “Mr. Blé Goudé did not issue a call or say ‘go and loot,’” but added that after the meeting at Le Baron bar, “there was some looting.”

A private session

Andreas O’Schea, Gbagbo’s lawyer, finally took over. His questions were very direct, and the witness often answered “yes.” He talked about the people’s fear in 2002 after the rebels snatched “great swathes of Ivorian territory” but also about the origins of some leaders close to the Patriotic Galaxy. The witness said, for example, that Navigué Konaté is a Sénoufo and Youssouf Fofana is from the North.

While the examination was to continue for another hour, the judge announced, in agreement with the defense, that it must be completed in closed session because the issues that needed to be addressed cannot be in public. The sound is muted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). But the information was not clear, and the people stay in the room. Until the ICC security man confirms: “Hearing in closed session until the end of the day.”

 

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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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