Witness: ‘My Words Are Not the Gospel Truth’

The hearing on Thursday saw the conclusion of Sinaly Dosso’s questioning. In October 2011, the former army transmission operator handed notes from his private wiretaps to International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators. During an electric hearing day, the witness’s approach proved less innocuous than it seemed.

The interrogation of Witness P-45 resumed on Thursday, February 9, at the ICC in The Hague, with Sinaly Dosso, 68, a former senior radio operator in the army. First, Laurent Gbagbo’s defense continued the interrogation opened yesterday, followed by questioning from Charles Blé Goudé’s defense.

The hearing focused on the nature of the notes given by the witness to investigators from the prosecution in Abidjan, the material used during the eavesdropping from his home during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis, and his motivations for this “clandestine” eavesdropping that was never recorded for lack of a tape recorder, he said.

Dosso allegedly handed over to ICC investigators the entirety of his notes taken during the crisis, “not huge because it fit in a folder,” both raw and rewritten by him. These notes were allegedly photocopied and given back to the witness, who subsequently lost his originals.

“I ransacked the whole house when I knew I was coming here to testify, but I did not find them,” he said.

Radio coming from army equipment

Dosso said yesterday that he used an “ordinary radio” that anyone could buy in Abidjan. However, it was a radio that he had in his former military functions, 10 years before the events.

“You say you kept this equipment after the 24 December 1999 coup against the Bédié regime because you could not return to the place without being in danger. But you remained in office there until January 2001. What justifies not returning this equipment, which was bought on public funds? You kept it fraudulently, did not you?” the defense accused.

“Everyone left with his material. I was never asked to return it,” the witness replied.

Dosso said he spent an hour each day for five months behind his radio, noting only what he was interested in, until the networks gave up the ghost at the end of the violence.

“I did not become fixated on the whole thing, I just listened in for ten minutes here and there when I had free time. And I noted the information that I found interesting,” he said.

As the cross-examination continued, the approach of this former soldier to connect to the Republican Guard, the police, and the gendarmerie radio networks – but never to rebel frequencies, which according to him, “had probably no network ” was far from being a distraction.

Indeed, his eavesdropping seemed motivated by reasons other than mere curiosity.

“Since the death of General Guéï in 2002, there have been many crimes to which no one has been able to testify in this country. I wanted to target those who issued the orders, those who said ‘kill,’” he eventually let out.

The eavesdropping revolved a lot around a certain Cosmos, the identifier of Gbagbo’s Republican Guard network, who he said was allegedly very much involved in the violence and killings: “a virulent order-giver who masterfully conducted the military operations.”

“Committed to overthrowing Laurent Gbagbo”

“During your listening, did you think that Alassane Ouattara could come to power?” defense lawyer Andreas O’Shea asked.

“I never had any doubts about that,” replied Dosso.

Transmitting information and strategic advice to a “European friend” located at the Golf Hotel, where the current President Côte d’Ivoire was with his supporters and close relatives, the witness was probably more involved in the course of events than he had at first said.

“One could say that you were personally involved in the overthrow of Laurent Gbagbo’s government?” defense lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops asked after a long series of questions.

“It was necessary for this country to be in peace at last. Things became unbearable, there were too many dead. His departure was salutary,” the witness replied.

The defense uncovered the fact that beyond Dosso’s eavesdropping, his testimony included a lot of information from personal opinions and interpretations.

“It was the public rumor that you made available to the investigators,” said Claver N’Dry to this former sergeant who, with his forehead sweating, repeated that what he had given investigators had to be verified: “Everything I say is not necessarily the gospel truth.”

The exchanges during this witness’s testimony were precise and tense. It was an electric day in the courtroom, with heated confrontations between an offensive defense and Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser trying to combat too much speculation.

“You must question the witness about the facts,” he hammered to the lawyers, infuriated. In the afternoon, it became even necessary to suspend the hearing at the request of O’Shea, so that he could regain control of himself.


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.