Witness P-238 continued giving testimony on Thursday, September 29, at the International Criminal Court. Much of the hearing was held in private session to avoid the risk of revealing the witness’s identity. The legal representative of the victims was able to ask questions before passing the baton to Laurent Gbagbo’s defense.
It was on the crimes committed against the civilian population and the “targeting of part of the population” that Paolina Massidda, the legal representative of the victims, wanted to question the witness. Earlier this week, the lawyer had submitted a request about this to Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser, adding that his answers could be “of paramount importance.”
“This could allow the Court to understand the magnitude of the tragedy,” she had said. The judges had accepted this request on the grounds that it did not encroach on the rights of the defense.
Thus, after the last exchange between the witness and prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald, the victims’ lawyer asked a few questions to P-238. “You said that having a northern-sounding name was a cause for concern. Why?” she wanted to know.
The witness explained that such a name could be associated “with the Invisible Commando,” which numbered a majority of people from the northern part of country. “People had in mind that the invisible Commando was coming to commit acts of sabotage,” he said.
Were there other reasons for the “checks, arrests, and atrocities” committed against these people? Massidda asked.
“People had almost gone crazy,” said the witness, “Northern names were associated with Alassane Ouattara, you were considered as a member of President Alassane’s party.”
The rest of the examination by the legal representative of the victims was held in private session, before Laurent Gbagbo’s defense took the floor.
Abuses allegedly committed by the FRCI out of revenge, according to the witness
In public, there was discussion of the post-crisis era, including in a certain neighborhood, whose name was mentioned in private session. Emmanuel Altit, the lead counsel for Gbagbo, wanted to know if the witness had any idea about what had happened to the “people arrested by the FRCI [Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire].”
“I do not know,” P-238 replied.
“Did the FRCI commit abuses?” the lawyer asked.
“Surely,” the witness supposed, “out of revenge.”
The attacks on the Ground-to-air Artillery Battalion (BASA) camp were also discussed by the defense. According to the witness’s account, that day, the first shot from a helicopter of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) was aimed at the garage where the ammunition was stored. “It exploded, and the camp went up in smoke,” said. Then helicopters probably belonging to the French targeted the positions of the BASA Twin-tubes, the only weapons with which the unit could fire back.
“They knew their location,” said P-238. A second attack of the same type followed the next day, according to the witness. He also said he did not know if UNOCI was cooperating with the rebels but that he had heard that the UN force “was supplying” the Golf Hotel.
The day ended with the topic of clashes between the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) and the rebels, especially in Abobo. Earlier this morning, the prosecution had questioned the witness about the use by the BASA of 120mm mortars in urban areas during the post-election crisis. P-238 confirmed that it was in principle an illegal practice on the one hand “because of the damage it can do,” secondly because they were used against attackers who have lighter weapons, such as AK47 and RPG rocket launchers.
The defense reacted to this in late afternoon, questioning the witness about the rebels’ firepower. P-238 spoke of the “unconventional methods” of enemies who repeatedly hid to attack the FDS. He mentioned that BASA members “were actually scared” when their turn came to be sent to Abobo and “thanked God” once back in camp.
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.