Senegal: Former Ivorian President's trial opens Thursday at ICC

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - The first trial arising from the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation in Cote d'Ivoire will open against former president Laurent Gbagbo and youth leader Charles Blé Goudé on 28 January, 2016.

In a statement, made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Wednesday, the Coalition for ICC (CICC) said both persons are suspected of orchestrating post-election violence that killed some 3,000 and injured thousands.

This is the first time a former head of state will be tried before the world’s only permanent international criminal court.

According to the statement, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda alleges that Gbagbo and Blé Goudé created and executed a common plan to hold on to power after losing the Ivorian 2010 presidential election by encouraging attacks on the supporters of incumbent president Alassane Ouattara.

They 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 crimes in question are alleged to have been committed in the Ivorian capital Abidjan during a pro-Ouattara march, at a women’s demonstration and in a densely populated area in the city from December 2010 to April 2011.

''This trial can help our country to finally put an end to its crisis by fighting against impunity. It is crucial for this trial to be fair, just and impartial to make sure truth is established and known by all Ivoirians,'' remarked Ali Ouattara, president of the Ivorian Coalition for the ICC.

''It is equally important Gbagbo and Blé Goudé are not the only ones to be held accountable for grave human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC should investigate and prosecute crimes committed by all sides of the Ivoirian conflict to avoid allegations of bias and genuinely support justice and reconciliation in the country. More must also be done to hold perpetrators of grave crimes to account in national courts and provide redress to victims.''

''As this trial is highly politicized in Côte d’Ivoire, it is critical that ICC staff is present in the country to communicate key messages and counter misinformation throughout the proceedings. However, it appears that this will not be the case for the trial opening. We urge the ICC, and the states that fund the court, to ensure that this dangerous situation does not continue,'' Ouattara added.

William R. Pace,  the convener of the CICC, also hailed the trial as a very significant moment in the advancement of international justice for the worst crimes.

He said the issue of bringing to trial former and especially serving heads of government and ministers remains extremely controversial—but it is one of the pillars of the ICC treaty ratified by 123 governments.

''While other ad hoc tribunals have dealt with former heads of state such as Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milošević, this is the first time the ICC, which is a permanent new world court, will try a former head of state for alleged crimes against his own people.''

''Because of the fierce attempts to misrepresent and undermine this crucial humanitarian law achievement, this trial is a timely reminder that in the Rome Statute no one—no matter their station in life or place in society—is immune from ICC prosecution.

''It is also significant that this case arose from a referral to the ICC by the government of Côte d’Ivoire. The coalition seeks universal ratification of the Rome Statute to ensure all who order and commit these crimes can be held accountable,'' Mr. Pace stressed.

The statement further highlighted the comments of Fanta Doumbia, president of the Organization of Active Women in Côte d’Ivoire.

''Sexual and gender-based violence have a terrible impact on women who are usually poor. With the stigmatization attached to such violence, women are rejected by society and husbands,'' she said.

''They find themselves left alone. It is therefore of utmost importance to fight against impunity for these crimes which are amount to crimes against humanity accordingly to the ICC Rome Statute. Impunity of today leads to the crimes of tomorrow.''

Meanwhile, Gbagbo is accused of committing the crimes jointly with members of his inner circle and through members of pro-Gbagbo forces or—in the alternative—for ordering, soliciting and inducing the commission of the crimes or—in the alternative—for contributing in any other way to their commission.

For Blé Goudé, he is accused of ordering, soliciting and inducing the commission of the crimes or—in the alternative—for aiding and abetting their commission.

The CICC also revealed that the views and concerns of 726 victims who applied to participate in the proceedings would be presented throughout the trial.

Under the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, victims participating in proceedings can receive reparations for harm suffered by a convicted person.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 27Jan2016

27 january 2016 16:10:20

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