After six days of interrogation, the testimony of Brédou M’Bia, the police boss at the time of the post-election crisis, closed two days ahead of what had been announced. The trial will resume on March 6.
Brédou M’Bia’s testimony ended on Wednesday, February 22. Jean-Serges Gbougnon, of the Abidjan Bar and lawyer of Charles Blé Goudé, took the floor.
“I know it’s a bit difficult because usually you are the one who asks questions,” he told the former DGPN at the beginning of the session.
Turning to various statements by the witness and reports attached to the file or evoked during the hearings, the defense sought to show that the identification of certain groups of students, young people, or marchers, whether pro-Gbagbo or pro-Ouattara, active at various points in the crisis, was not always based on tangible facts.
He asked the witness whether there were any “objective identification criteria” to recognize, for example, members of RHDP, LMP, or FESCI, to which the witness replied that he had not established criteria with his collaborators and that they identified the groups according to their affiliation and that, conversely, it was not possible to know in the name of which movement they acted. “If they do not take sides, we cannot identify them.”
Faced with his approximations, the witness added a nuance by pointing to “confusion” between reports that were referred to, in which police officers “merely report” and investigations that verify the reported facts. However, it was learned in the course of hearings, that investigations were rather rare.
“Must the chamber then understand that your collaborators’ reports are unverified reports?” asked Gbougnon.
“That’s not quite right,” M’Bia replied before getting tangled up in his explanations. Given that many elements in the prosecution file are from police reports, which does not necessarily invalidate their veracity, the line thrown by the defense was not totally insignificant.
Claver N’Dry, another lawyer for Blé Goudé, presented a document dated March 21, 2011 but bearing a fax date of February 2006.
“How can a document bear the date of a previous fax?” he asked.
“It seems so gross that I do not know how it could have happened,” replied M’Bia.
A curfew in Abobo
The interrogation then followed its course with the last usual questions by the defense, the prosecution, and the presiding judge, which led to the broadcast of an excerpt of TV news by lawyers for Blé Goudé, about whom it was said that he allegedly paid “two million” CFA francs to Commander Loba of the Riot Squad (BAE). We see Laurent Gbagbo’s former Minister of Youth and Employment addressing young people who had come to meet him in his neighborhood and were keen on committing to defend the nation.
He replied in substance: “For the moment what is happening does not exceed the capacity of our army. I do not want you to go to war but to find work,” He repeated several times before the cameras: “I do not want war in this country.”
For his part, prosecution lawyer Eric McDonald presented two videos dated January 12, 2012. The first related the meeting between Chief of Staff Philippe Mangou and security forces commanders, with a view to deciding on which measures should be taken against attacks on the FDS. The second was a broadcast of the televised speech by Mangou following this meeting, forcefully denouncing attacks against the FDS “with weapons of war…by groups lying in ambush and responding to the call of politicians entrenched at the Hotel du Golf .”
He announced emergency measures such as the introduction of a curfew in Abobo from January 12-15, 2011 and warned in a loud voice, everyone who could hear him, that being in a position of “self-defense” the FDS “have the right to retaliate against attacks.”
Some information but few revelations
“Mr. Witness, we wish you a safe return,” concluded Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser before adjourning until March 6. The testimony of M’Bia, accompanied by nearly 400 pages of evidence and more than 300 documents of sometimes opaque origins, lasted six days. Apart from what was revealed in closed session and therefore in a confidential manner, one important piece of information was that all the commanders of security forces (FDS) plus the Head of CECOS asked Laurent Gbagbo to resign “to avoid problems.” This request for withdrawal was allegedly made at his residence on March 14, 2011, as suggested by the prosecution.
The former police chief, avowedly not a great friend of dates, gave little information on the presence and role of militiamen or mercenaries during the crisis, on civilians killed, on the place des rebels, or on what happened at the Golf Hotel. In the courtroom in general, “I do not remember” is a pirouette that avoids both lying and telling the truth. The question that remains to be answered, as always, is why.
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.