International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Heated Exchanges in the Courtroom

The witness gave a hard time to Charles Blé Goudé defense team on Tuesday, October 25. Counsel for the accused took up several points from previous declarations by Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice. Interruptions by the Office of the Prosecutor also led to extensive discussions between the parties and the trial chamber.

Fierce debates marked the day’s cross-examination at the International Criminal Court (ICC). From the beginning of the hearing, even before Charles Blé Goudé’s defense team resumed their thread of questions, the witness’s counsel intervened in order to relay his client’s “concerns” about some issues discussed yesterday in private session, which could provide clues as to the place where he is now located.

At the trial of Simone Gbagbo in which he had testified, Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice allegedly had “his own safety and his family’s safety under serious threat.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be very careful,” promised the Presiding Judge, ensuring that he would not allow any questions on this subject.

For their part, Blé Goudé’s defense reacted by denouncing an email sent yesterday by the Office of the Prosecutor. “To suggest that we will disclose the place where the witness is located is totally insulting,” Jean-Serge Gbougnon, one of the accused’s counsel said, irritated. “We are professionals; we must be respected. No questions referred to the place where he was located and where his wife and children were located,” he further argued.

The witness called upon to locate Sapia, a city where he allegedly served in 2004

After that, the day’s cross-examination finally began. In an attempt to demonstrate the witness’s lack of credibility, the defense followed the same strategy as yesterday, confronting the former paramilitary leader’s words with his previous statements. Jean-Serge Gbougnon focused on specific points, starting with the Sapia “outpost,” where the witness claimed he was stationed in 2004. For long minutes, the lawyer interviewed Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice on the location of the cities of Sapia and Bondoukou. “I want to demonstrate that we have been brought a not very credible witness. He can’t even locate Sapia!” justified Jean-Serge Gbougnon, while the Presiding Judge questioned him on the relevance of his questions.

Following an intervention by the Office of the Prosecutor, the atmosphere became more and more electric. “Calm down, or we’ll stop the hearing!” threatened the Presiding Judge. Claver N’Dry, another lawyer representing Blé Goudé, finally intervened, calling on the judges to be “patient and indulgent.”

“The defense knows where it’s going,” he assured.

Back to the questioning, the witness finally gave his answer: when you come from Abidjan, “you get to Bondoukou before getting to Sapia,” he assured.

Metche Metchro “When I want to go into details, you cut me off!”

The following discussions focused on the November 6, 2004 appeal launched by Blé Goudé. He “asked the youth to come out to block the French forces,” in the words of the witness. He explained that even before this appeal, he knew about the “attempted coup by the French to place General Mathias Doué at the head of the country ” and that he had instructions. Asked about how things went on in the night of November 6, the witness said that he went directly to the 43rd BIMA from Treichville where he was located.

“I’ll read to you the statement you made to the prosecutor’s office,” interrupted Jean-Serge Gbougnon. In this declaration dating from 2014, the witness mentioned a meeting in Marcory, at the Orange Headquarters.

Summoned to explain this point, the witness replied, “When I want to go into details, you cut me off!” Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice, therefore, insisted on clarifying that he went through Port-Bouet before joining Marcory for a “reunification” with GPP elements and a “final briefing.” It was at that time that they were issued weapons, the witness said, adding that these were Uzis.

Once again, the former GPP second-in-command was confronted with his previous testimony. “You didn’t mention Uzis when you spoke of this gathering,” said lead counsel for Blé Goudé.

“It is said five pages later that there were Uzis!” cut in the Office of the Prosecutor, once more causing heated debate.

At the end of the day, the discussion was finally on the 2010 events, including the march on the RTI on December 16. The defense will continue to review the witness’s statements on the post-election crisis at the next hearing, on Thursday, October 27.

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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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