The questioning of Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice ends tomorrow. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, November 2, Laurent Gbagbo’s defense continued to ask questions to the witness. Relations between the Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP) and the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) were at the heart of the exchanges.
The “legality” of the GPP was the theme that Andreas O’Shea, one of the lawyers representing Laurent Gbagbo, first focused on. In particular, he wanted to know more about the “professional cards” distributed to elements of the paramilitary group, of which the witness was a member. According to him, the maps produced by the leaders of the GPP, served as “passes” at the Defense and Security Forces roadblocks. With this document, the members of the GPP could therefore move freely.
Gbagbo’s defense countered this explanation with an excerpt from the Official Gazette from 2003. In this excerpt it was said that the paramilitary group, accused of “forgery and falsification of records” held “unlawful professional cards identical to those of the FDS.” These were “legal cards,” insisted the witness, stating that they could not be “accused of forgery.”
The march on the RTI, protesters “whipped”
Continuing on the theme of cooperation with the FDS, the former president’s defense then turned to the post-election crisis. The discussion was on the December 16 march on the RTI. “We knew their mission in general, but we were not expected to know everything,” said the witness, when asked about the prerogatives of the FDS that day.
As for the GPP mission it was to “intercept the marchers and support the FDS in quelling the march,” said the man who held the position of GPP second-in-command at that time. According to him, that day, the FDS “opened fire” on the marchers but that was not the case with the GPP. Members of the paramilitary group allegedly only “whipped” protesters with “strings.”
Following this statement, O’Shea wanted to know in what way that was part of the GPP’s official mission. The demonstrators “were considered as rebels” who were conducting “subversive acts considered as a coup,” said the witness. In this context, “we will not be offended that people are beaten up,” he justified.
Like previous days, Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice was once again confronted with his prior statements. Counsel for Gbagbo drew the attention of the chamber on the differences in versions concerning the same day. One example among others, the witness had said in one of the previous statements: “We were armed with Kalash.” In another statement, he attested that they “had no weapons,” because they were not allowed to bear weapons that day.
The witness said that the second statement was referring to elements stationed in Adjamé. “In Cocody, they had two Kalash”, he justified.
“This witness is able to say what he thinks”
This exercise continued for about 30 minutes, interspersed with numerous interventions by the Office of the Prosecutor, who complained that some questions were “incomprehensible.”
These interventions provoked the ire of O’Shea. The lawyer denounced “unacceptable practices,” with the Office of the Prosecutor deliberately interrupting to “give the witness time to think.”
“The prosecution is trying to aid and abet the witness,” said Gbagbo’s lawyer. Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser did not hide his irritation, urging all parties to “stay cool” and “exercise restraint.”
“This witness is able to say what he thinks,” the presiding judge finally decided.
Indeed, the witness remained undaunted and responded to each of these alleged contradictions, sometimes breaking into convoluted stories. The former paramilitary leader also asked that the statements he made at the trial of Simone Gbagbo be relativized. There allegedly were “blunders” in the transcript of his remarks, some answers were “compressed,” with questions removed from the transcript.
“I read and I understand nothing,” he assured, describing how the trial had taken place, “several people were asking questions at the same time,” others were shouting, calling him “crazy” or “a liar.”
“I answered as I could…I feel that this was not a trial, but a settling of accounts,” he said.
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.