ICC Judges Issue Written Reasons for Acquittal in the Gbagbo Case; What Bensouda Can Do Now

Judges in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé trial in The Hague have filed a written statement of the reasons for their decision to acquit the two Ivorians. The ball is now in prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s court.

Before any proceedings in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé could continue before the International Criminal Court (ICC), the written decision was needed, and it became available on July 16. The judges of Trial Chamber I gave in writing the reasons for their decision to acquit the former Ivorian President and his Minister of Youth.

“Today, 16 July 2019, Trial Chamber I issued its full reasons for the decision. The Majority, composed of Judge Tarfusser and Judge Henderson provided a detailed analysis of the evidence in Judge Henderson’s reasons (Annex B). Judge Tarfusser has also separately set out his reasons and additional reflections on the case (Annex A). The reasons for Judge Herrera Carbuccia’s dissenting opinion can be found in Annex C,”  read a statement from the Public Affairs Unit of the Hague-based court.

According to the statement, the judges have in their written document, “address and develop all the points noted” in the oral decision rendered on January 15, 2019. These points are as follows:

  1. The prosecution has not demonstrated that there was a “common plan” to keep Gbagbo in power, including the commission of crimes against civilians;
  2. The prosecution has not substantiated the alleged existence of a policy aimed at attacking a civilian population, based on the recurrent procedures to which the violence allegedly responded and also on the other indirect evidence referred to in support of this allegation;
  3. The prosecution has not shown that the crimes as alleged in the charges were committed in accordance with or pursuant to the policy of a state or organization aimed at attacking the civilian population;
  4. The prosecution has not shown that public speeches by Gbagbo or Blé Goudé ordered, solicited, or encouraged the commission of the alleged crimes, nor that any of the accused knowingly or intentionally contributed to the commission of such crimes.

By this act, Judge Tarfusser and the other judges of the trial chamber restart proceedings in the case that was on hold until the filing of the written decision. In fact, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was waiting for this reasoning before deciding on whether to appeal the decision made earlier this year.

Bensouda and her team have up to 30 days to notify the court on whether or not they will appeal the acquittal decision. If the prosecution decides not to appeal, then it will be the end of the Gbagbo and Blé Goudé case before the ICC. Otherwise, a resumption of the trial cannot be ruled out.

However, it is important to note that this 30-day period will take into account the judicial recess planned for July 19 to August 12. The prosecutor’s response could therefore come in September 2019 at the latest.


Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé were charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and other inhumane acts, or – in the alternative – attempted murder and persecution stemming from post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 16, 2010 and April 12, 2011. On January 15, 2019 Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were acquitted of all crimes.

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.

One Comment

  1. A weak analysis this article originally by citizen observer because if I read the 2 decisions of judge Tarfusser (90 pages) and judge Henderson (956 pages) it appears that the very role of the ICC is put in question. The emptiness of the evidence is so extreme that they are requesting since January 2019 for an urgent release of the 2 detainees (in the case Gbagbo held for 8 years now and today acquitted of all charges yet still under very restrictive conditions of detention ! The need for a link between the alleged facts and the accused were not proven in a 8 year trial, although 4,000 exhibits were on file and 87 witnesses were heard! Let’s just take one sentence from Judge Geoffrey A. Henderson Reasons at the end of NOTES PRELIMINARY in English (google translation) p 14:
    “Being less demanding and making judgments based on questionable” evidence systems “can lead to more convictions and even to the loss of awareness that we are acting to” end impunity “. The only way in which this institution can pretend to continue handling so many different situations and cases with so little resources and sometimes limited state cooperation, is by lowering the very standards of justice and fairness which motivated States to establish the Court. Being less demanding and rendering judgments based on ‘systems of evidence’ of questionable quality may lead to more convictions and even a vacuous sense that we are doing something to ‘end impunity’. However, the law is there to be upheld in all its rigour, not to serve as an excuse to satisfy political or even humanitarian goals. If we cease abiding by this principle the ICC will become a court in name only and we will no longer be able to do justice for anyone.” More info and videos about the Gbagbo case https://www.free-simone-and-laurent-gbagbo.com

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