Working in the General Directorate of the National Police in Abidjan, Adamo Bonaventure Guillaume Séverin is the 32nd witness to be heard in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. The witness was the head of the Adjamé district during the post-electoral violence.
“You can go home, Sir,” Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser told Witness P-45, a former radio operator in the army, on Thursday, closing two days of hearing, charged with electricity and interspersed with private sessions.
The hearing of this Friday, February 10, opened with Witness P-560, who also came to testify without a pseudonym. The day was not without tension, with several altercations between the parties about interrogation methods. The witness had to go out several times to allow for clarifications to be made in the courtroom.
The day of the march on the RTI
A 50-year-old Ivorian, Adamo Bonaventure Guillaume Séverin, joined the police in 1996. He is now a Research Officer at the National Police Headquarters, after serving in the criminal section. This witness has a special status and is currently working with the Ivorian authorities. In order to avoid self-incrimination, he therefore had a lawyer assigned to assist him.
“Your only obligation is to answer by telling the truth,” the Presiding Judge told him.
The witness was then questioned by prosecution lawyer Lucio Garcia. Crimes that occurred during the December 16, 2010 march on the Ivorian Radio-Television (RTI), led by Ouattara supporters and suppressed by forces loyal to Gbagbo, was one of the four charges brought by the prosecution. It was at the center of this interrogation.
During this march in the RTI, the witness was head of the Adjamé district, a district north of Abidjan, and an officer in a National Police still under the command of Gbagbo. He was then in charge of maintaining law and order and had under his control the police stations of seven arrondissements.
Seven dead and 13 injured after the CECOS intervention
What instructions he received or gave that day was at issue in the questions put by the prosecution.
“Were there any instructions from the Prefect of Police in relation to the marches that took place before that of December 16?” Lucio Garcia asked.
“No,” replied the witness. “On the morning of December 16, the Prefect of Police called me and told me that people were marching on the RTI. He asked me to verify the information, and if it was accurate, to disperse the demonstrators with teargas grenades.”
The prosecution outlines the course of the day in line with the reports transmitted to the witness by various Police Commissioners present in the field. The results were “seven dead and 13 wounded” according to one of the reports.
“I understand that some people died from bullet wounds and others were evacuated to the CHU [University Hospital Center],” the police officer said.
The Police Commissioners were afraid
The question was, who was liable for those deaths? According to his explanations, this followed the CECOS (Security Operations Command Center) and BMO (Law Enforcement Brigade) on-the-spot interventions in different districts of Abidjan, these being special forces that had never been under the orders of the witness who spoke at the bar. However, it took several weeks before the Commissioners provided the information.
“They told me that CECOS was there on December 16 when they were asked for explanations and were afraid to speak,” the witness said. No investigation was then conducted to clarify these bloody events.
“Did you personally conduct an investigation?” Garcia asked.
“My position does not allow me to do so, and we did not receive any requests from the hierarchy,” the witness said.
Differences were found between the written testimony of this witness, dating back from March 2015, and his oral testimony at the court. He responded quietly after taking an oath in the morning: “During my testimony, the ICC investigators surprised me with their questions. Five years had passed since the events, things were confused, I did not have everything in mind. But before I came here, I had time to remember and everything came back into my head. So the real version is the one I’m giving you today.”
The approach of the Ivorian policeman who came to The Hague, who worked under Gbagbo and now works in the police forces of the current President Alassane Ouattara, did not appear to be related to personal interests, as appeared to be the case for other witnesses in the trial. His testimony continues Monday.
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.