Detoh Letho: “Making Abobo a War Zone Was Not a Good Move”

After several weeks of interruptions and a missed hearing on November 6, 2017, the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé before the International Criminal Court (ICC) resumed on November 7 with the testimony of Firmin Detoh Letho.

The testimony before the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Firmin Detoh Letho, former Commander of the Ivorian Land Forces, began on November 7, 2017. The retired general, who testified via videolink from Abidjan, was first questioned by the prosecution.

Prosecutor Melissa Pack focused primarily on the organization of the Ivorian armed forces during the crisis period. In his testimony, the witness returned to the situation in Abobo, the epicenter of the violence for most of the post-electoral crisis.

Detoh Letho confirmed that Laurent Gbagbo was against declaring the most populated commune of Côte d’Ivoire a “war zone.”

“Mangou [Philippe Mangou, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces] had suggested that President Gbagbo should make Abobo a war zone. The President refused. I said that it was not good that Abobo be made a war zone. The army’s job is not to kill the people,” the witness said. According to him, other members of the High Command were also against this approach.

“If, however, Abobo was declared a war zone, there would be collateral damage. Especially as in Abobo, those who were facing us were the Invisible Commando. They fought in civilian clothes. We were fighting the Invisible Commando. When they fired at our elements, they put on civilian clothes. We had trouble moving around. So making Abobo a war zone was not good,” continued the witness.

Detoh Letho, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FRCI) after the crisis, also discussed the reasons for the intervention of the army at Abobo.

“When we saw that things were getting worse in Abobo, the army started leading operations. These were patrols we carried out. When we saw that a lot of police were killed, the army came out to lead,” he said.

Testimony by Video Conference

Expected in The Hague by many Ivorians, the retired General testified from Abidjan with his lawyer present.

A prosecution motion requesting that some witnesses testify via video conference was approved by the court in a decision dated November 3, 2017. The motion raised “medical” issues that prevented Detoh Letho from traveling by air to the seat of the court in the Netherlands.

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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, 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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