Judge Declares “The Chamber Has the Elements to Make a Decision”

The presentation of the various parties in relation to the “no case to answer motion” filed by Laurent Gbagbo’s defense ended on Thursday, November 22, 2018 before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Four days after the beginning of their presentations before Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Charles Blé Goudé’s defense concluded their arguments in favor of a dismissal.

At the end of these statements, Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser explained to the participants that the judges are now sufficiently informed to be able to decide in favor of a dismissal or for a continuation of the trial. This decision is expected in 2019.

Prior to this phase, the Presiding Judge delivered the chamber’s decision regarding Charles Blé Goudé’s intention to address the court. In a split decision, the judges decided not to grant this request.

The majority opinion explained that “the Chamber notes that although Article 67(1)h of the Statute gives the accused the opportunity to make an oral statement without taking an oath, this does not mean that the accused has the right to speak when he wants to ….The presentation of evidence phase for the defense has not started yet. As a result, the majority believes that an unsworn statement by Mr. Blé Goudé at this stage of the proceedings is in contradiction with Article 67(1)h. Mr. Charles Blé Goudé, through his defense, was given the latitude to present the relevant arguments. The majority of the chamber, with the Presiding Judge’s dissenting opinion, refused to give Mr. Blé Goudé an authorization to make a declaration without taking an oath.”

The Presiding Judge dissented. Judge Tarfusser considered that giving the floor to Laurent Gbagbo’s last Youth Minister would be justified. “I strongly disagree with the majority decision. I am convinced that addressing one’s judge is an inalienable fundamental right for every defendant,” he said.

Judge Tarfusser was also surprised by “the vehemence with which” Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opposed this statement. “The Prosecutor should be pleased that an accused presents his perspective of the events,” added the judge, who interpreted this decision as “a violation of a fundamental right of the accused.”

For Cuno Tarfusser, the interpretation made by the other two judges is “too narrow,” and he suggested that Blé Goudé’s speech could have been monitored by the judges.

Now that hearings on the no case to answer motion have concluded, judges will retire to deliberate and reach a decision about whether the trial will continue.

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.