Witness Denies Having Links to Rebels

Laurent Gbagbo’s defense continued their cross-examination of a prosecution witness on Monday, September 5, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The questions focused on the rebel groups during the post-election crisis. Witness Barthélémy Obiénéré Ouattara, former head of the Abobo Commando Camp, provided only few details and denied any links with members of the rebellion at that time.

“Invisible Commando,” “plainclothes gunmen,” and “rebel groups,” … it was impossible for Barthélémy Obiénéré Ouattara to distinguish all these. However, one thing is certain for the former head of the Abobo Commando Camp, “they were dangerous” for the Ivorian armed forces. Questioned by Mr. O’Shea, counsel for Laurent Gbagbo, the witness said he had little information on how these groups operated. However, he did give a few clues on their positions at Abobo in the post-election crisis.

The captain made particular reference to two “rebel leaders” Zakaria and Chérif Ousmane, who at the time allegedly occupied hotel “Harmony,” located near the PK18. Diallo crossroads and Marley District were also cited as landmarks for rebel elements.

Regarding the strength of the rebels, the former head of the Abobo camp remained very vague. “We could not see the enemy. They used guerrilla methods,” he justified, claiming that men “were shooting at the supplies train from the windows of buildings.” In the words of the captain the weapons at their disposal were AK47 machine guns or rocket launchers.

No specific information from the witness on rebel groups and their leaders

Questioned at length about the identity of the rebels, the witness gave few details. “The name Fongnon circulated widely. It was said that he was the leader of the Invisible Commando,” he said, adding that he did not know this man. In response to a request from the defense, the witness then wrote three nicknames on a sheet of paper: Jack Bauer, Diezel, and Little Lasso. Three men who allegedly also took part in the rebellion but whom the captain said he did not know personally.

More generally, between 2004 and 2011, the witness allegedly did not meet any member or person in connection with the rebellion. “What about the man called Alla?” O’Shea asked then, referring to an old fellow soldier of the witness’s. “I learned that he had defected to join the Golf Hotel,” replied the witness, adding that this did not mean that the man in question had joined the rebel cause.

O’Shea then asked the former head of Abobo camp about “valuable information” he would have been able to provide the rebels after his desertion once at the Golf Hotel. “That’s a point of view,” succinctly answered the captain, stating that he was asked no questions. “They thought I could be a spy,” the proof of this being, he said, that he was given “no responsible position” at the Golf Hotel.

The defense lawyer then emphasized a violent attack against the military that occurred just days after his defection. “I see where you’re going,” responded the witness, who then added that he could see “no connection.”

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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.

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