For four days, Charles Blé Goudé’s lawyers will present before the judges of the Court the reasons for an acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo’s last youth minister.
On Monday, November 19, 2018, Charles Blé Goudé’s team of lawyers began the presentation of their arguments in favor of the acquittal of the former young patriots’ leader in his trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Led by Alexander Knoops, senior lawyer for Laurent Gbagbo’s last Youth Minister, the team set out to demonstrate that Blé Goudé was a stranger to military decisions. According to Knoops, he did not take part in the meetings aimed at implementing the “common plan,” presented by Fatou Bensouda as the matrix of actions of the Gbagbo camp during the 2010-2011 crisis.
According to Knoops, the defense has shown that Blé Goudé was not present at essential and “so-called strategic meetings” between Laurent Gbagbo and the Defense and Security Forces (FDS)commanders during which the prosecution alleges they developed a common plan. The Blé Goudé defense based its arguments on the testimonies and registers recovered at the residence occupied by Laurent Gbagbo at the time of the events.
According to Knoops, Blé Goudé “was not involved in these meetings.” Knoops argued that “the prosecution contradicts itself,” demonstrated by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to drop charges against the Blé Goudé.
Dropping of the charges against Blé Goudé in connection with the third and fourth incidents, he claimed, shows that the prosecution concedes that there is no evidence linking Blé Goudé to meetings allegedly held on January 12 and March 14, 2011.”
The defense also raised the issue of militias, including the recruitment of young people into the army following the appeal launched by Blé Goudé.
Based on the testimony of Philippe Mangou, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces at the time of the crisis, Alexander Knoops argued that his client did not favor any integration of young people into the army.
“P-009’s testimony shows that there was never any real intention to recruit these young people. The staff managed the crowd on its premises to save appearances. They channeled the young people and at the same time, encouraged them to leave the General Staff. Prosecution allegations that people have surrendered their identity cards and filled out forms do not change the fact that these people did not join the army of Côte d’Ivoire and they did not fight in the army,” he said.
“The Prosecution’s Case Collapses”
Present in the room and dressed in an African traditional dress, Blé Goudé saw his lawyer explain to the court, presided over by Cuno Tarfusser, that “the allegation that enrollment was an ongoing process is totally baseless, artificial, and does not help support the theory that Charles Blé Goudé with this call played a key role.”
For Knoops, in the absence of evidence proving that this enrollment took place under the leadership of Blé Goudé, Fatou Bensouda’s case loses all its substance.
Knoops argued that recruitment would have been the same even if Blé Goudé had not issued this call. “The accusation that Blé Goudé played a role in recruiting young people is untrustworthy. The prosecution’s case collapses in the absence of evidence that Charles Blé Goudé played an important role in recruitment,” he continued.
The hearing continues on November 20th, still with the presentation of Blé Goudé’s lawyers.
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 Observateur Citoyen, 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.