The Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial, which went on recess on February 22 after the testimony of the former director-general of the Ivorian police, resumed today in The Hague. However, the much anticipated Witness P-11 did not start testifying. The defense pointed to a conflict of interest related to the appointment of his counsel, which was revoked following a decision of the trial chamber.
On February 22, Laurent Gbagbo’s lead lawyer, Emmanuel Altit, announced the arrival of “very important witnesses” when the trial resumed on March 6 and referred to voluminous files requiring “complex preparation.” Meanwhile, one of Charles Blé Goudé’s lawyers, Geert-Jan Knoops, confirmed today the importance of these new testimonies by referring to “witnesses relevant to the prosecution.”
The appearance of these important witnesses, for the time being referred to as P-10 and P-11, was discussed this morning in the courtroom, which resulted in a further suspension of the trial. Both defense teams challenged the appointment of the independent counsel representing Witness P-11, who was scheduled to appear Monday. Counsel is available to certain witnesses to protect them from the risk of self-incrimination.
Fabian Raimondo, who was appointed on February 15, 2017, but whose name was not revealed to the parties until the afternoon of March 3, “was hired in December 2012 as an independent counsel in the Prosecutor’s Office in the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé trial,” said Knoops. Fabian Raimondo was then consulted to evaluate confidential documents seized on the telephone of P-69, a witness now removed from the list.
The defense therefore found Raimondo too involved in the case to be able to impartially advise the expected witness. “He played an important role for the prosecution team” and could “influence the witness psychologically,” said Knoops, who asked the lawyer to withdraw. “This could otherwise have an impact on the fairness of the proceedings and the chamber’s missions in its search for the truth.”
“It is necessary to make a quick decision”
The request was supported by Altit, who found it equally prejudicial that Raimondo be counsel for both witnesses P-10 and P-11. “If P-11 is asked a question and the answer may be damaging to P-10, what will counsel do, since he is supposed to protect his witness? This is a fundamental issue.”
Gbagbo’s lawyer believed that Raimondo was “caught in a vise challenging his mission and forcing him to arbitrate. The conflict of interest is doubly constituted. We have to make a quick decision,” he said.
For his part, prosecution lawyer Eric MacDonald denounced the defense request as a “delaying tactic” and said he had never met Raimondo, believing otherwise “his two mandates were irrelevant.”
The defense’s request was heard by Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser. He pointed out that the conflict of interest had not yet been established and stated that in order to avoid “negative perceptions about the proceedings” and not to impede the integrity and transparency of the trial, the appointment of Raimondo was revoked.
Two new French-speaking lawyers were to be appointed before March 8, the date the hearings will resume, one for P-11 and the other for P-10. The witness’s identities remain unknown at the moment, but it is very likely that they were senior Defense and Security Forces officials who worked under Laurent Gbagbo.
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.