On July 13, the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial began with questioning by defense lawyer Andreas O’Shea. He questioned the thirteenth prosecution witness on the Ivorian army, the disarmament process, and the RTI march. Blé Goudé’s lawyers were also able to question him. Here is how it all went.
Laurent Gbagbo’s defense lawyer Andreas O’Shea asked whether concrete measures had been put in place within the Ivorian Defense and Security Forces (FDS) to protect civilians during the 2010-2011 crisis. According to the witness, who was unable to cite concrete examples, the protection of civilians was a broad mission whose modes of operation varied greatly depending on the situation on the ground.
The lawyer also asked the witness whether he thought the Ivorian army had communication problems. The witness explained that there were indeed cases where unit commanders failed to contact their superiors and internal communication could be disrupted. He also spoke of leaks. Some information held by FDS was allegedly disclosed to the rebels. The witness gave an example of this in closed-door session.
O’Shea then focused on the theme of disarmament. During his interrogation, the defense lawyer talked about the July 2003 installation in Bouake of the headquarters of the ADDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Authority). He also discussed the formation of a committee to oversee the implementation of the disarmament process. This information was validated by the witness who mentioned the names of some officials such as Lieutenant-Colonel Karim Ouattara or General Nicolas Kouakou, who headed the Integrated Command Center.
The lawyer then asked the witness about the amnesty process. In accordance with the Marcoussis Agreement, rebels who disarmed and got reintegrated could be granted amnesty. The witness said he realized that it actually was a limited amnesty. For his part, O’Shea said that those suspected of committing serious human rights violations were excluded from the amnesty.
In response to further questions from O’Shea, the witness recalled that State authority was not exercised over the whole territory because the country was divided. He also mentioned the case of the rebels who had not disarmed.
Subsequently, the witness recounted some details of the ceremony of the Flame of Peace held in Bouaké on July 30, 2007. While weapons were burned during the ceremony, according to the witness, these were in fact ancient weapons like guns from World War I and other non-operational vehicles from World War II. He also said that while the weapons used at the time in Côte d’Ivoire were not always state-of-the-art equipment, they were at least operational. The witness said he did not know if the military officials were aware of the true origin of the weapons that were burned. However, he said that Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were present at the ceremony. In conclusion, he said that the Flame of Peace did not have conclusive effects on disarmament.
Teargas at the RTI march
The December 16 march on RTI (Ivorian Radio and Television) was then discussed. According to the witness, Kassaraté Tiapé, who was at the time senior commander of the National Gendarmerie, instructed the units to disperse protesters with teargas. O’Shea asked about the possibility of launching teargas bombs with rocket launchers and if it is possible to shoot from a vehicle. According to the witness, it is not necessary to use a rocket launcher. A grenade-launching rifle is enough, and there are also other ways. He explained that one person can very well use the equipment while sitting inside a vehicle.
According to the witness, the march was not authorized. The defense lawyer asked whether, at the time, it was necessary to obtain permission to hold a march. The witness answered that “in any civilized country,” one needs authorization. He also suggested the lawyer check with Gbagbo because he was “the initiator of marches” in Côte d’Ivoire.
The witness then explained that Bertin Kouadio Konan, a.k.a. KKB, who was a member of the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) had organized the march. According to the witness, the rebels thought that the power was at RTI and the gendarmerie, so they were going to “take power.”
Later, a passage of this video was broadcast in the courtroom. The extract showed rebel leaders Guillaume Soro and Ouattara, a.k.a. Issiaka Wattao, mobilizing their troops for the march. O’Shea asked the witness to specify the name of the person appearing in the video. “This is Blé Goudé’s friend; it’s Guillaume Soro,” he replied. Blé Goudé, today wearing a Yacouba traditional dress, responded with a smile. It was at this precise moment that the questioning of the witness by Gbagbo’s defense ended.
Next, Claver N’Dry, a member of Blé Goudé’s defense team, questioned the witness. He was followed by Geert-Jan Knoops, lead counsel for the “General of the street.” Their interrogations mostly took place in closed session. Only certain questions on ECOMOG (the ECOWAS cease-fire monitoring Brigade) were asked in open session. The witness said that in 2002 and 2003 and also during the post-election crisis of 2010 to 2011, the ECOMOG intervention in Ivory Coast was discussed.
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.