Witness Questioned About the Ethnicity of Police Officers

Tuesday’s hearing in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial was reserved for questions by the defense to witness P-46, director-general of the police at the time of the Ivorian crisis.

Brédou M’Bia’s interrogation continued on Tuesday, February 21, in the presence of Laurent Gbagbo and the former Youth Minister Charles Blé Goudé. Both are accused of crimes against humanity for the violent aftermath of the November 2010 presidential election. According to the prosecution, they allegedly organized a “common plan” to allow Gbagbo to retain power “by all means.”

I do not know if there were armed marchers

On his fifth day of testimony, Emmanuel Altit, Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer, returned to Alassane Ouattara’s supporters’ December 16, 2010 march on the Ivorian Radio-Television (RTI), a march whose objective was “to install the new RTI Director-General,” confirmed the witness. According to the prosecution’s allegations during and after the march, “The pro-Gbagbo forces killed at least 45 people, raped at least 16 women and girls, and wounded at least 54 people.”

M’Bia reiterated this morning that he was not informed of this march on the RTI by its organizers but “had heard about it the same day.” He then took “vague measures in Abidjan.”

Altit repeatedly asked the former police boss if the marchers were armed.

Invariably, he replied, “We did not find that they were armed during the march. It was after seeing wounded policemen that we realized there had been weapons.”

The lawyer insisted. “Were the armed men dressed in civilian clothes?”

“I do not know if there were gunmen, so I cannot say how they were dressed,” logically answered M’Bia.

“On the list of RHDP [Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace] marchers, were there civilians who were victims of armed marchers, and if so, who killed them?”

“I do not know.”

Regarding the presence of militiamen in the Riot Squad (BEA) or the Republican Company, the witness gave the same response.

Little information about the rebels

Did M’Bia and his men feel threatened by the rebels during the crisis, the defense wanted to know. “I do not remember,” he said. When asked about “groups of fighters infiltrated in Abidjan before or after the elections,” and arms caches in the city for the rebels, he replied, “I had not been informed.”

Asked about the arrival of the rebels in Abidjan at the end of the crisis and the composition of their troops, he declined to give more information. “Our services no longer existed as of that date. And from March 31st, I said I was in a French military camp.”

Once Abidjan was surrounded, the army and gendarmerie defected. That was also the case with the police, its director general M’Bia having revealed yesterday that all the commanders had then left their post and that he, no longer having any protection, had found refuge with the French military forces.

Altit returned to the police organization chart, asking the witness to list the names of those in office during the crisis and to specify their ethnicity: “As the DGPN, you are the only person who can give us this listing.”

Despite numerous memory gaps in this tedious inventory (Abidjan has 35 police stations), it was found that police personnel had different geographical and ethnic origins within the country. “The police are not based on religion or ethnic groups, it is a competition, and we take the best,” M’Bia said.

“Has your ethnicity played a role in your appointments?” the defense asked. “It has nothing to do with it. It’s linked to my constancy in my job.”

Five policemen arrested after April 11

Then there was the arrest of a commander and four police commissioners after April 11, 2011. One “hospitalized in Morocco after his detention” died, and the others were dismissed from their duties but kept their rank and salary according to what the witness said.

“They received written summons, and as a superior I accompanied them to the Hotel du Golf,” recounted M’Bia. After two hours of discussion with the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defense (Gaston Mian, appointed by Alassane Ouattara), I could obtain the release of only one of them. I admit that I did not like it at all because these people were not wanted and came through the hierarchical channel. He added that “those who were detained thought that I was in some collusion and that I had participated in their arrest.”

The defense then presented to the witness about 50 documents for authentication, to which the public did not have access except a few citations. M’Bia had to clarify whether or not he had knowledge of these documents, of which he was sometimes the receiver and sometimes the sender. For the defense, this was a way to confront him with the statements he made during his oral and written testimony, and to partly confirm what he said he knew or ignored.

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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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