It was the continuation and end of Saydou Zouon’s interrogation this Thursday, December 1, at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Questions from the defense of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé focused mainly on incidents that occurred in the neighborhood where the witness lived in 2010 and 2011.
It was in Yopougon Koweit that Saydou Zouon experienced the post-election crisis. Arriving in the district in late 2009, the young man resided there at the time with his mother, brothers, and sisters. Questioned by the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé defense teams, the witness returned to several facts that he had described to the investigators of the Office of the Prosecutor in 2012. Thus, he mentioned the setting up of checkpoints by “Young Patriots” at one crossroads in his neighborhood, just after the elections. According to him, the objective was to check “who is a foreigner, who is Dioula.”
For his part, the witness kept at a distance. He assured that the neighborhood people did not “know” him and did not know that he was of the Dioula ethnic group.
“You just saw young people gathered with tables at the crossroads?” Gbagbo’s lawyer wanted to know but did not get an exact answer to his question.
Then, as a second step, using sketches and maps, the witness was asked by Blé Goudé’s team to locate the various places that had been mentioned, a perilous exercise, which almost made the Presiding Judge lose patience.
“I do not know what you’re getting at,” Judge Cuno Tarfusser eventually told the accused’s lawyer.
Checkpoint and “Article 125”
There was also mention of an incident at the same crossroads. Saydou Zouon recounted having witnessed the arrest of a man. According to him, after checking his I.D., the youths allegedly shouted “Burkina, Burkina!” They allegedly then beat him up before sprinkling him with gasoline.
“They wanted to burn him. I went home, I could not bear it,” the witness assured.
According to him, it was this event that induced him to leave the neighborhood for a time and settle in Abobo. Returning to this account, the defense reread to the young man his previous testimony, in which he referred to a “Malian.”
“I never mentioned a Malian, they talked about a Burkinabe,” he retorted defensively.
Inconsistencies in the witness’ account
Throughout the day, the defense sought to unravel what the witness had seen from what he had heard, not without difficulty. The witness often missed the point in his answers to questions, despite the Presiding Judge’s calls to order. For example, Gbagbo’s team wanted to know why the witness had said that the youths had gas, given that on several occasions he had explained that he could not hear them from where he was. Was this misunderstanding or bad faith? At all events, the lawyer did not get an answer to this question. The witness merely explained that it was “Article 125,” 100 CFA francs for gasoline, 25 for the matchbox.
At the end of the day, the defense once again looked at the December 16, 2010 march, during which the witness was wounded. But again, it was difficult for the young man to trace his itinerary on a map. So, Blé Goudé’s team did not fail to point out inconsistencies in his narrative.
“Did you learn that FDS [Defense and Security Forces] were killed on that day?” the lawyer finally asked.
“Yes,” replied Saydou Zouon.
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.