Today was the last day of interrogation for Jérôme Tarlue Junior. The witness answered final questions from Laurent Gbagbo’s defense. Charles Blé Goudé’s team, for their part, refrained from continuing this cross-examination because the ex-Liberian fighter had already narrated in detail his history and his version of the Ivorian post-election crisis.
Questioned by Laurent Gbagbo’s lead lawyer, Jérôme Tarlue Junior returned to some points of his story, in particular the attacks on the RTI. It was impossible for the former Liberian combatant to define the date of these assaults. However, one thing was obvious: according to him, the United Nations supported the rebel groups in carrying out these attacks.
“Junior Gbagbo” also returned to his role at the president’s residence. He explained that he was acting under the orders of Séka Séka but that on the field, he was in command of the operations of the Liberian fighters.
“People shouted my name. They knew I was a courageous fighter,” he insisted.
The witness was also questioned about the “Invisible Commando.”
“Somebody would jump out of a taxi and start shooting. He’d say Gbagbo did not want elections to be held,” said “Junior Gbagbo,” pointing out that this was happening “in the central areas” of the city.
“You mean that the Invisible Commando was carrying out terrorist actions?” asked Gbagbo’s lawyer.
“Yes,” replied the witness.
The witness “pleased to have told the truth”
For their part, Blé Goudé’s defense preferred to waive their time, visibly satisfied with the cross-examination conducted by Gbagbo’s team. This was not the case with the Office of the Prosecutor, who asked the witness many re-examination questions, in spite of the defense’s reluctance.
“This is a new direct examination that we are witnessing,” Emmanuel Altit deplored.
Asked by Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser to proceed, the prosecution had the opportunity to come back to several topics. The last of these, mentioned in private session, provoked lively a debate, which eventually came to a public conclusion.
The question was apparently about whether the witness should be called a “mercenary” or not. Prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald justified the importance of questioning the Liberian veteran on this point. “Junior Gbagbo” does not “want to answer” questions about the money or salary received “as part of a contractual exchange,” explained the Office of the Prosecutor. “We want to know if he is afraid of being identified as a mercenary.”
For his part, Emmanuel Altit regretted that the accusation was “beating about the bush” trying to “make the witness say that he is a mercenary.” The prosecution “asked the question 12 times, to no avail,” added the defense lawyer.
“We have obtained enough information on this point to decide later,” the judge finally decided.
“I am pleased to have been able to come and tell the truth here,” said the witness, adding that he was “very satisfied” with the way the trial chamber had conducted the case. “I hope that, following what you are doing here, African leaders will be well-behaved and put in place good governance systems,” he said.
Emmanuel Altit’s “rant”
After the witness left, the discussions focused on the program for the weeks to come. Emmanuel Altit took the opportunity to express his discontent with the last minute changes in the order of passage of witnesses, protesting against the lack of communication from the Office of the Prosecutor.
“We are always put before the fait accompli; we do not receive much help from the prosecution. This is a real problem,” lamented Gbagbo’s lawyer, calling for more dialogue between the parties.
Cutting off the debate, the presiding judge unveiled all the adjustment and protection measures to be applied to the next witnesses. In order to avoid the “retraumatization” of “vulnerable” persons and to guarantee their dignity, some of them will be heard in closed session. So, at the very end of the day, the public was not allowed to attend the presentation of the new 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.