After a 10-day break, the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé resumed on Monday, September 19, in The Hague. The witness, who worked in the human rights division of the Ivorian UN mission during the post-election crisis, testified openly before the court.
“Protection measures are not justified.” This was stated by Judge Cuno Tarfusser before the testimony of the 16th prosecution witness in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial began. There was “no concrete and identifiable risk,” the presiding judge explained.
Despite requests for protection by the Office of the Prosecutor and the Victims and Witnesses Unit, it was openly and under her real name that Aurelia Fuchs answered questions from different parties. As an Advisor for Human Rights, she worked at the Abidjan Regional Office of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) during the post-election crisis.
A call center for victims and witnesses at the UNOCI
At that time, the witness was in charge of collecting the testimonies of victims of human rights violations. To this end, a call center was established by the UN mission in December 2010. The objective of this platform was so that witnesses or victims could call to recount events seen or experienced, such as “shots, disappearances, arrests,” said the young woman. Many of these calls mentioned the Young Patriots, the “excavations” and “check points” that they allegedly set up, Fuchs explained.
Based on the testimony received by phone, these people obeyed the orders of their Secretary-General, “Mr. Charles Blé Goudé,” according to the witness, who added that she was directly threatened by some of these young people. “I had to go and live in the office for two months,” she said.
As for the relations between the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) and UNOCI, they were “complicated.”
The witness said, “In one case, we were directly threatened,” recounting an incident in a clinic in Treichville following a demonstration by women. As she visited this place with other UNOCI members to collect the testimony of injured people, “the Republican Guard asked us very explicitly to leave, I think some colleagues were threatened,” the Human Rights Advisor reported. “When we came out of the clinic in military vehicles, the Republican Guard blocked the road.”
UNOCI call center had no way to verify the source or the origin of the calls
Reacting to questions from the prosecution, Gbagbo’s defense asked the witness about her experience and the possible use of the call center “for political purposes.”
“Did you undergo any training before you went to Côte d’Ivoire?” asked Andreas O’Shea, one of the accused’s lawyers.
“I did some reading [and] I had the preparation for this work,” the witness said defensively, referring to the control mechanisms, such as reporting to supervisors, interviews conducted by two people, and monitoring of testimonies from the call center.
“Were those working there aware that this could be used as a propaganda tool? ” the defense insisted. The young woman admitted that she had not thought about this immediately upon her arrival, but had later become aware of this possibility. “That was why monitoring mechanisms were put in place,” she said, citing also the “confrontation of sources.”
“A call would not be proof,” Fuchs added, while admitting that no device allowed one to check the origin of calls or the identity of witnesses.
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.