At the July 12 hearing in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé case at the International Criminal Court (ICC), a protected witness, whose name is not known, testified at the court. Emmanuel Altit, Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer, focused on the former rebellion by asking the witness to speak of former rebels, including Cherif Ousmane.
The hearing began with questions by Emmanuel Altit, lead counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, on Mr. Montoya and Mr. Lafont. According to the witness, the first man allegedly delivered military equipment to the Ivorian authorities in 2002-2003. The second man, Mr. Lafont, was allegedly one of the first French legionnaires to come to Côte d’Ivoire. Altit wanted to know if they had any connection to the French secret services, but the witness said he did not know.
The defense then asked about the bombing of the Agban Camp in Abidjan on April 10, 2011. The witness allegedly said in a previous hearing that the camp contained about 3,000 to 3,500 people, including 1,500 to 2,000 civilian refugees. The witness said that UNOCI and French forces bombed the camp with two “Gazelle” helicopters. He explained in detail the circumstances of the death of Andrea, a 14-year-old girl who died as a result of the bombing.
Duékoué, UNOCI, and the New Forces
Altit asked if the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces had launched other attacks before that day. The witness spoke about the attacks on Duékoué, where, according to him, the New Forces had difficulty moving forward. UNOCI and the French forces therefore allegedly carried out attacks, which allowed the New Forces to move forward. The rebels allegedly attacked civilian refugees in a church and, later, killed 800 people.
Asked about other occasions on which UNOCI and the French army allegedly launched the attacks, the witness quoted the President’s Residence, the Yopougon naval base, and the Koumassi and Akouédo barracks. Akouédo barracks was allegedly bombed with the same helicopters as those at Agban. To illustrate his point, Altit showed the witness a video and asked if he recognized the place. The witness said that he had no visual clues and Altit explained that it was a video shot by a civilian showing the destruction of the Akouédo powder magazine.
After a few minutes of closed-door session, Altit returned to the attack on the Agban Camp. The lawyer recalled that people talked of shells launched on the camp by elements of Chérif Ousmane (a New Forces Commander at the time) from a location near the Abidjan Technical High School. Answering questions from Altit, the witness said that the attacks on the Agban Camp were carried out, among others, with 60 mm shells, RPGs (rocket launchers), Kalashnikovs, and AA52. The witness said that around April 12th or 13th, he heard screams of women who were raped by rebel elements at the Technical High School. These were women who allegedly went to the Technical High School to take refuge.
The Invisible Commando attacks
The counsel for Gbagbo then questioned the witness about the Invisible Commando, an armed group aligned with Alassane Ouattara. The witness explained the Commando’s strategy, which consisted of erecting barricades and burning tires to attract the attention of Ivorian Defense and Security Forces (FDS). Once FDS were on site, the Invisible Commando attacked.
The witness explained in detail how one day the Invisible Commando staged an ambush at the Abobo Railway Station roundabout. While some elements acted as if they were protesters erecting barricades, others traveled by Woro-Woro and came close to the roundabout. When the FDS arrived, the Invisible Commando launched their attack.
According to the witness, 32 policemen died following the Invisible Commando attacks.
In conclusion, the witness gave his analysis of the consequences of the Invisible Commando’s actions. According to him, the FDS were afraid to intervene. He explained that an operational command area under New Forces was created following the withdrawal from the police stations, and all Abobo except the Commando Camp, was in rebel hands. From January 2011, supplying Commando Camp became complicated, because all the roads to and from the Abobo Railway Station roundabout (freight area) were under rebel control.
The White Horse Conspiracy
Then Altit asked the witness about the attacks that were launched before the post-election crisis. He started by asking for details on the “White Horse Conspiracy,” the attack on General Guei, on September 18, 2000. The lawyer was interested in the perpetrators of the attack. The witness cited names like Cherif Ousmane, Tuo Fozié, and Diomandé Souleymane, a.k.a. the Hand Grenade. Altit asked if those who were working against Guei were the same as those who, in 2010, positioned themselves against Laurent Gbagbo. “Yes, we can say that,” the witness replied.
Gbagbo’s counsel asked the witness to narrate the Robert Guei coup in October 2000. He then went on to January 8, 2011, when the Agban barracks were attacked. The witness explained that the organizers were the same elements as those who staged the White Horse Conspiracy, and he added the name of Youssouf Ouattara, a.k.a. Kobo.
The counsel then asked about the September 18-19, 2002 attack, which was also launched on the Agban barracks. According to the witness, the homes of people close to Gbagbo were also attacked. Altit also wanted to make sure once again that the attackers were the same as those in the White Horse Conspiracy. The witness replied, sounding rather annoyed, that when he said the same, he meant the same.
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.