This report focuses on the continuation and conclusion of Barthélémy Obiénéré Ouattara’s testimony. The lawyer for Charles Blé Goudé asked his last question to the former Abobo Commando Camp head, this Thursday, September 8, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Topics discussed included the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo and the role of the witness during his stay at the Golf Hotel.
This Thursday morning, Claver Ndry, one of Charles Blé Goudé’s defense lawyers, wanted to go back to the presence of two French soldiers at the Golf Hotel. These were soldiers that the former Abobo Commando Camp head met on arrival at the Golf Hotel following his desertion. One of the objectives of this meeting was to get information from the witness. The soldiers asked him to identify particular places in photos. It was in fact, in the words of the captain, pictures of the Abobo Commando Camp, the naval base, or the gendarmerie school.
As to where these aerial photographs were taken, Barthélémy Obiénéré Ouattara did not doubt for a moment. While he was still serving at the Abobo Commando Camp, he regularly saw helicopters of the Licorne French force flying over the camp. “I cannot use that word,” retorted the witness, adding that in his view, the Licorne force was an “impartial force” with a UN mandate.
Obiénéré had absolutely nothing to do with Gbagbo’s arrest
The defense finally went back to the day Laurent Gbagbo was arrested, showing the witness a video. In these images one could see the former Ivorian president and his wife facing the cameras in a room of the Golf Hotel.
“You were in this room?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes. That’s why I saw Laurent Gbagbo’s son with a head wound,” answered the witness who stated that it was in this very room that he usually slept.
“You had nothing to do with the action on the ground that resulted in the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo?” Mr. Ndry then asked, surprised that the former president was brought into the captain’s room.
“I did not take part in any combat and even less in the operations that led to his arrest,” the witness said, adding that “the room had been requisitioned for Laurent Gbagbo and his family.”
Following the examination by the defense, the judges then asked questions. Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser, in particular, asked about the setting up of a mortar battery in the Abobo Commando Camp, mentioned earlier by the witness. “According to your statement, the officer who wanted to use these mortars said he was ordered to do so by the Presidency. How did you get this information?” Judge Tarfusser asked.
The witness answered that he could hear parts of a conversation between this officer and the head of the Abobo Commando Camp command post, who later recounted to him the whole discussion.
Following these clarifications and before the witness finally left the courtroom, all parties insisted on thanking him for having testified openly, an essential step “in the search for the truth” in the words of prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald. “This is a very important signal that we are trying to send to the world and especially to the Ivorian people,” noted the presiding judge for his part.
The witness also thanked all of the Court. “I had reason to fear this hearing,” he confessed, adding that “with all those black robes, it is not reassuring…You were able to reassure me, and I hope my testimony has served both sides in the search for the truth,” he concluded before being escorted out of the courtroom.
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.