International Justice Monitor

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A Retired Soldier, a Transistor, and Wiretapping During the Crisis

A new witness appeared this morning in the Laurent Gbagbo and  Charles Blé Goudé trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This former staff sergeant, who served in the army’s communications section, explained how he had monitored the police, gendarmerie, and Republican Guard networks.

The 31st witness in the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé trial appeared at the ICC this morning. Like the previous one, Witness P-45 testified openly. A retired soldier, Sinaly Dosso lives in Abidjan. He was born in 1949 in Côte d’Ivoire, the former staff sergeant joined the army in 1968 and worked in the communications section while Félix Houphouët-Boigny was the president of the country.

In 1971, he joined the Ministry of Defense and worked in the international interception section. In 1984, after three years in the communications department in the President’s Office, he left his military status to work as a civilian employee in the same department. After the elections in 2001, which saw Laurent Gbagbo come to power, he was asked to leave office because of his political affiliation and his origins.

“I was told that as I could inform Colonel Bédié, and I was from the North, they could not keep me,” the witness said. He then worked for a private company for 10 years.

Everybody was wiretapping in Abidjan

First questioned by prosecution lawyer Alexis Demirdjian, this former member of the army communications section began by explaining that during the 2010 elections in Cote d’Ivoire, “everyone was wiretapping in Abidjan to hear those who were on the ground. Any small station was enough to stumble upon the frequencies of several networks that were not secure at the time.”

The witness was retired when the post-election violence erupted in 2010-2011, but “from the moment the situation degenerated,” he began listening from his home to various analog networks whose frequencies could be picked up.

“Not out of curiosity but for my own safety, to know the hot places where you should not go,” Dosso said.

He added that “the only way to limit anonymous listening on these networks was to often change your frequency,” and use mobile for what had to remain confidential.

Not having a tape recorder to “materialize” what he heard, he took detailed notes on the three networks he began to monitor and follow: the Republican Guard, police, and gendarmerie.

“Everything that was important, I noted it,” Dosso said, referring to the notes that he allegedly gave the investigators from the ICC’s prosecutor’s office in Abidjan. “Then it was up to them to verify the information I gave them,” he said.

Connected to these networks, the witness analyzed and decrypted everything. Highly familiar with the exercise, he established a precise noting system, a scoreboard following the course of events. To remain anonymous, each user had codes given by the transmission officers, he explained. He then succeeded in perceiving the hierarchy of this constellation of pseudonyms and in restoring the ranks “through lost words,” which were good indications.

“Cosmos gave orders for executions on the spot”

He now recognized “stakeholders, dangerous persons, or those who wielded authority.” The witness then said he heard orders to “kill” on the Republican Guard network.

“Cosmos validated the missions, issued orders for executions on the spot, supervised operations, and Atlas must have been his supervisor,” he explained.

He also stated that the Republican Guard was a “very disciplined” network, which was not the case with the gendarmerie where “insults” and insubordination were frequent. He added that these networks could not communicate with each other.

On December 16, 2010, the day of the march on the RTI, Dosso was behind his transistor. He noted the information he received “in real time,” juggling between the transmitting networks. He allegedly heard, among other things, UNOCI (United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire) tell “all agents to stay at home” or the police ask their people “to use conventional means and not kalaches or shots to disperse the crowd.”

At the end of the day, Gbagbo’s defense team took the floor.

Thursday’s hearing should bring to an end the interrogation of this former soldier. We do not yet know why he spent so much time and energy duplicating all this private eavesdropping during the post-election violence or why he transmitted to “a friend at the Golf Hotel some of these elements coming from the field.”

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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.

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