Two witnesses testified today, November 29, in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The morning was devoted to the closed-door hearing of P350, a “vulnerable person.” A second witness appeared this afternoon to discuss the December 16, 2010 march.
The two witnesses of the day were heard by video conference. This morning, P350 gave evidence in camera in order to “avoid exposing his welfare to risks,” in the words of the judges. This measure, decided last week, was intended to protect this “vulnerable” witness who witnessed the march on the RTI.
This afternoon another witness appeared, but in public this time. Saydou Zouon, who was wounded on December 16, 2010, also testified remotely. His testimony before the investigators of the Office of the Prosecution (OTP) in 2012 was admitted into evidence, but the witness did not return to the account of that day.
A bullet on the left knee
The prosecution simply presented a medical certificate before questioning the young man about the consequences of his injury. He reported that he was shot in the left knee during the march on the RTI, and the bullet was never dislodged. Saydou Zouan, who was not very talkative, simply explained that he had to stop working on the installation of satellite dishes since that date.
“With my condition, it tires me to climb up and down ladders. My left foot no longer works normally,” he said.
Very quickly, the defense took over for cross-examination. Andreas O’Shea, a lawyer for Gbagbo, examined the earlier statements made by the witness before the OTP and Ivorian authorities. For example, Saydou Zaouan confirmed that he had filed a lawsuit against Laurent Gbagbo in Côte d’Ivoire between 2012 and 2013. The lawyer also wanted to know whether the witness had initiated proceedings to obtain financial compensation following his injury. The man explained that his elder brother had indeed lodged files with an NGO, adding that he did not know any more.
A call for a “peaceful march” according to the witness
At the end of the session, O’Shea returned to the march on the RTI. In his statement, the witness referred to Guillaume Soro’s call to “liberate the RTI.” The aim was to carry out a “peaceful march,” not to take the RTI by force, said Saydou Zaouan.
Unconvinced, the defense wanted to know why, according to the witness’s testimony, Guillaume Soro used the words “dislodge the former director…install a new one” and “protect the RTI.”
However, the witness denied using the word “protect” in his earlier statements given to the prosecution, insisting that he only talked about “marching.”
“So the investigator did not record your remarks correctly?” asked the lawyer.
“Regarding the word ‘protect,’ they were mistaken,” replied Saydou Zaouan.
This last question provoked opposition from the prosecution and a call to order from the judges. Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser reproached the defense for asking “too convoluted” questions.
“My feeling is that sometimes the witness has no idea what you’re talking about,” the judge said.
It must be said that throughout his hearing, communication was complex, the witness having difficulties with the French language and obviously suffering from “lack of concentration.” Part of the problem should be resolved tomorrow. Additional interpreters will be present at the ICC to translate the questions into Dioula, his mother tongue, for the witness.
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.