Some Clarifications but No Revelations on the Witness’s Last Day in Court

Today was the last day of questioning for Metch Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice, a former member of the Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP). After 10 days of testimony, the witness provided his last clarifications to the defense of Laurent Gbagbo on Thursday, November 3, at the International Criminal Court.

Colonel H, Hotel Commander, Kone Hamed, The Spider…As a preamble to this last day of interrogation, the witness was asked by the defense of Laurent Gbagbo to list all his nicknames. It was by these nicknames that he was known at the time when he was a member of the paramilitary group, between 2002 and 2011.

To leave nothing to chance, Emmanuel Altit, lead counsel for Gbagbo, then proceeded to clarify, with the witness, many details of his story. The defense went back to the chronology of events, starting with the period 2005 to 2006. Metch Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice explained that at that time the GPP had to “keep a low profile,” until the 2010 elections because the behavior of the members of the paramilitary group “very much embarrassed the authorities.”

The GPP: a thorn in the side of the authorities

Indeed, in the words of the witness, the GPP was regularly guilty of “abuses” reported by the press, such as thefts or extortion. Moreover, clashes with the transport union, and the police still had a little more tarnished the group’s reputation and it was forced to leave Adjamé to settle in Azito (Yopougon) in 2005. However, the witness again insisted on one point: the GPP was officially disbanded in 2007, following the DDR agreement (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration).

Picking up on this theme, Gbagbo’s lawyer expressed surprise that despite this history of violence, GPP members should demand the funds promised to the fighters in these agreements. “You considered it unfair that the rebels should receive money and not you?” asked Emmanuel Altit.

“Yes,” replied the witness, adding that the amount claimed was 500,000 FCFA per person.

The members of the Invisible Commando were “elusive”

The defense then turned to bombings by French helicopters in April 2011, when the witness was based at the Presidential Palace. Gbagbo’s lawyer also wanted to know more about “the Invisible Commando” and “rumors” on the presence of “Burkinabe mercenaries” mentioned earlier by the former GPP second-in command. However, he was unable to provide more information. He simply explained that he had not himself fought the Invisible Commando. The members of this “group led by IB [Ibrahim Coulibaly] were almost elusive,” assured the witness, telling how they used to blend in among the demonstrators to carry out attacks against the security forces.

Finally, the defense wanted to question the witness about his current situation, and in particular his place of detention, but the Presiding Judge immediately cut short these questions, recalling that it was forbidden to raise this subject for security reasons.

By late afternoon, the Office of the Prosecutor had the opportunity to seek clarification on the topics covered by the defense teams, including the relationship between the FDS (Defense and Security Forces) and the GPP. Despite the reluctance of the opposing parties, the prosecution was able to show the witness a new document. It was a list made in February 2011 with the names of the members of the GPP and other militias to be integrated into the regular armed forces. “This is the only member of the GPP to be called to testify,” said Alexis Demirchian, representative of the Office of the Prosecutor to justify his late use of this document.

After three weeks in The Hague, Metch Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice was finally invited to get on his way back home. A new witness is to be called to the bar when the trial resumes on November 14.

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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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