International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Hélène Yapo Etté, Bensouda’s Last Witness in Court

The trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé before the International Criminal Court (ICC) went into recess in December 2017 and resumed on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

After a break of several weeks in their trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were now back in The Hague courtroom on January 17.

This was also the beginning of the testimony of Professor Hélène Yapo Etté, a forensic physician and the last prosecution witness.

The discussion was highly technical and focused on the work of the forensic expert during the post-election crisis. In her testimony, she said that several families were pressing to recover the bodies submitted for examination by her teams.

“These people arrive, identify themselves by presenting their identity card, we copy their contact details onto our registers for traceability, and then we issue the certificates. There was pressure from the families to take the bodies and bury them,” explained the witness.

The first female professor of forensic medicine in Côte d’Ivoire, Hélène Etté also stated that she had taken part in several exhumations as part of her duties.

“I took part in exhumations. Our role was to study the place where these exhumations took place, the conditions under which these exhumations were made,” she told the court. With regard to the number of victims examined by her and her teams, the witness indicated that she was unable to say.

“I cannot say how many bodies we received. When we started working, we received the bodies as we finished, she explained. For some bodies it can go quickly and for others not. The flow was very variable.”

However, the witness said that several victims were presented as victims of the post-election crisis only based on information provided by their relatives.

“In several cases, relatives of victims said bodies were those of people who had been shot dead. The reports give another version,” she said. Professor Yapo Ette’s testimony continues on Friday, January 19. Afterwards, the defense will have the opportunity to present their case to the court.

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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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