Gbagbo’s Defense: “The Prosecutor Has a Political Position”

Laurent Gbagbo’s defense continued their presentation on the arguments justifying their request for dismissal before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On the third day of Laurent Gbagbo’s defense lawyers’ arguments, they questioned the Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP’s) objectivity.

In the presence of the two accused, the Gbagbo defense suggested that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has a “political position” when it comes to talking about the town of Abobo, a place where the former head of state allegedly committed crimes against humanity.

“The Prosecutor blames president Gbagbo and the presidential security forces for failing to surrender to the rebels. This is a political position and not a legal demonstration,” the defense argued.

Laurent Gbagbo’s lawyer argued that the Prosecution’s case is “empty.” He claimed that “Laurent Gbagbo cannot be held liable. The Prosecutor was unable to demonstrate any solicitation or encouragement to commit crimes,” he said.

The lawyer presented the Prosecutor’s case as “a wobbly house of cards.” “The case is empty on the whole,” he commented.

The defense also claimed that no statement made by Gbagbo, the founder of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), was likely to cause violence. “The Prosecutor could not find any solicitation in Laurent Gbagbo’s speeches since these speeches were calls for calm, peace, and reconciliation. Since the Prosecutor did not demonstrate the existence of any criminal order, she was obliged to fall back on the idea that the commission of crimes would have been predictable,” he argued.

Charles Blé Goudé’s lead counsel, Alexander Knoops, also spoke at this Wednesday’s hearing. He mainly tried to show the court that the evidence presented by Fatou Bensouda was not, in his view, credible.

This evidence is based on “hearsay and reports by organizations,” Knoops argued. “Regarding the contextual elements, we are relying on anonymous hearsay. This hearsay means that the judges cannot test that evidence. Even for reports that contain statements by identified sources, these sources have not been tested during this trial,” he told the court.

“No reasonable trial chamber could rely on these reports,” he argued. “We need evidence that goes beyond deductions.”

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.