After the Charles Blé Goudé defense’s last questions, Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyers took over to question Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice on Monday, October 31, at the International Criminal Court. The witness’s past was closely scrutinized. The objective was to pin down the personality of the former Group of Patriots for Peace (GPP)’s second-in-command.
Childhood, drug use, depressive episodes: Laurent Gbagbo’s defense did not hesitate to ask the witness intimate personal questions. As soon as he started his cross-examination, Andreas O’Shea, one of the lawyers for the accused, went back to Metche Metchro Moise Harold Fabrice’s past, focusing closely on the period between 1998 and 2002.
The witness admitted that at this time, when he was a teenager, he “used to smoke cannabis” and sometimes stole money from his parents to buy the drug. However, he denied any “addiction.” As proof of this, he said he put an end to this practice on his own initiative, when he joined the GPP at the end of 2002.
The witness is “a human being” the Presiding Judge recalled
“Have you experienced periods of depression?” the defense lawyer asked and got a negative response.
“Did you have violent impulses?” Andreas O’Shea insisted.
“I am an impulsive person, but I cannot call myself a violent person,” replied the witness. The former paramilitary admitted to having “committed acts of violence in 2003,” but he insisted on clarifying that “it is always difficult to hurt someone.”
While questions continued on the same theme, the Office of the Prosecutor finally intervened. They reproached the defense for trying to stealthily use a psychiatric report on which the parties are not allowed to ask questions.
This is “a witness who admitted to killing civilians,” recalled prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald. “Personality plays a role, but we must return to the facts,” he still argued.
“We are getting very close to humiliating the witness” decided Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser, insisting that the witness was “a human being.”
The GPP officially disbanded in 2003
Picking up on the subject of violence and abuses by members of the GPP in 2003, Gbagbo’s lawyer then focused on the government’s response to these practices. The witness explained that the GPP had been disciplined by the military authorities following illegal acts, such as repeated thefts.
“Did the government ban the GPP?” asked Andreas O’Shea.
“No,” replied the witness.
The lawyer then presented an excerpt from the Official Gazette of the time, which referred to the “disbanding” of the paramilitary group after these “human rights violations.” The witness explained that the GPP activities had indeed continued. According to him, the authorities decided to “relocate” the base of the paramilitary group and not to disband it.
“My brain is not a computer”
Earlier in the day, Blé Goudé’s defense asked their last questions to the witness, grilling him once more on his contradictions.
“My brain is not a computer. I cannot remember everything,” the former GPP second-in-command protested when he was summoned once again to explain his earlier discordant statements
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.