Defense Lawyer Calls for Gbagbo’s “Unconditional” Release

In a letter to the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Emmanuel Altit, senior lawyer of Laurent Gbagbo, has called for a lifting of restrictions against his client who is on conditional release.

Under conditional release since his acquittal by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in January of this year, Laurent Gbagbo has been living in Belgium with several restrictions. The former Ivorian head of state no longer wants this situation to go on, and his senior defense lawyer announced this to the court.

In a letter to the judges of the ICC Appeals Chamber, Emmanuel Altit called for the unconditional release of the former president of Côte d’Ivoire. In his document, the French lawyer did not hesitate to raise the possibility of Gbagbo’s return to the political arena.

“Laurent Gbagbo might indeed, at the request of the country’s political leaders, have to participate in the campaign or even, hypothetically, to run for election. If this were the case, the overly restrictive regime put in place by the judges of the Appeals Chamber, if upheld, would prevent Gbagbo from participating in the presidential campaign. Being prevented by the judges of the Appeals Chamber from leaving the Belgian territory and going to Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo is de facto prevented by them from participating in the public life of his country,” wrote Altit.

According to the note filed before the chamber presided over by the Nigerian judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Gbagbo must be considered as an actor of reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire and be released immediately.

“A major figure in Ivorian political life, a popular figure throughout Africa, Laurent Gbagbo is at the heart of the reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire. Personalities from all sides, political leaders, civil society members, have been demanding that he actively participates in the country’s public life and reconciliation since his acquittal. Ivorian officials, including President Bédié, Alassane Ouattara’s former ally, have publicly called for President Gbagbo’s participation in the process,” said Altit.

“What is at stake here is absolute respect for the freedom of a person acquitted by the International Criminal Court. Once the Appeals Chamber has returned all of his rights to Gbagbo, he is free to discuss with any state the possibility of visiting or staying in that State (including Belgium),” the lawyer added.

According to Gbagbo’s lawyer, the rights that were restricted through his conditional release include: “the right to express himself as an activist or politician, the right to participate publicly in the determination of a political party’s program, the right to take part in political meetings, the right to participate in radio and television programs in which mention is made of his political career or his political vision, the right to answer questions from journalists or historians about his career or his political vision, the right to give his vision of reconciliation.”

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.