International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Witness’s “Reliability” Challenged

The cross-examination of Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice began on Monday, October 24. Charles Blé Goudé’s defense began the questioning, closely focusing on the witness’s previous statements. Their objective was to demonstrate to the trial chamber that the witness’s words varied from day to day.

Since this Monday morning, Charles Blé Goudé’s defense has been evaluating the “reliability” of the former second-in-command of the Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP), a pro-Gbagbo paramilitary group. So Jean-Serge Gbougnon, one of the accused’s lawyers, took up several points from Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice’s earlier statements. Some of these statements were made last week at the International Criminal Court (ICC), others at the trial of Simone Gbagbo in 2016 or during his detention at the Ivorian Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST) in 2014. His objective was to demonstrate to the judges that the witness’s words vary from day to day.”

The defense first returned to a detail of the witness’s life trajectory. Last week, he had said that in 2002 he was in ninth grade. “You were 19 years old?” Jean-Serge Bougnon asked, surprised before the witness confirmed.

GPP funding: the witness talks and then retracts

The defense then discussed at length how the former GPP second-in-command had been arrested in 2014. The witness explained that before he was arrested, he “pretended he was a madman” to avoid being recognized while he was wanted by the police and Dozo traditional hunters. With a long beard, wearing rags and his face in a frightened state, Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice allegedly spent months in the bush before being identified by villagers. Handed over to the Dozo, he was transferred to the Tabou gendarmerie before finally landing at the DST in Abidjan on May 5, 2014, where he “made a full confession.”

During questioning, the witness mentioned former Minister Assoa Adou. He had earlier on stated that the Minister was one of the GPP’s funders. However, two years later at the trial of Simone Gbagbo, the former paramilitary officer said he had withdrawn his statement following a confrontation with the former minister. Jean-Serge Gbougnon therefore sought to know why the witness had given “different versions.” The latter explained that he had “not received any money in person” from the former minister and thus, he could not “confirm” that Assoa Adou had actually funded the paramilitary group.

“Confessions” between Metche and Lida Kouassi Moise, the witness confirms his allegations.

Another topic discussed was the relationship between Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice and Lida Kouassi Moise, the former defense minister he allegedly regularly met during his exile in Togo. During questioning at the DST, the witness allegedly reported how Moise Kouassi had confided in him in a bar in Lome. The former minister confessed to him having ordered the assassination of General Robert Guei.

However, Blé Goudé’s lawyer noted that another version was given at the trial of Simone Gbagbo. According to him, a man called Touré had told the witness that Kouassi Moses had commissioned this murder. “I never mentioned any Touré,” replied the witness, referring to an error in the transcript of the hearing. “It was a misunderstanding. I said that the minister had told me in Lome,” he justified.

A psychiatric evaluation of the witness added to the defense case.

The discussions in the afternoon focused on the use by the defense of a psychiatric evaluation report of the witness dated 2014, a document released at the trial of Simone Gbagbo. The Office of the Prosecutor opposed the use of this document, dated two years ago. The reason: “We know nothing about the author” of this report or the methodology used.

For their part, Laurent Gbagbo’s defense stressed the “importance” of this official document, which was requested in the context of legal proceedings. This is a “fundamental” element for assessing “the witness’s plausibility and reliability,” argued Andreas O’Shea, one of the former president’s lawyers.

The judges agreed that the document should be added to the file, but the parties could not question the witness about the contents of this report. The judges explained: “This is a psychiatric examination of the witness’s health. It cannot rule on an evaluation carried out by experts.”

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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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