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Côte d’Ivoire: ICC Prosecutor Appeals Acquittal of Former Ivorian Leaders

(Dec. 2, 2019) On October 17, 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in the case of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé filed a motion for the ICC Appeals Chamber to declare a mistrial following the two defendants’ January 15 acquittal.

Laurent Gbagbo was the president of Côte d’Ivoire from 2000 until 2011, and Charles Blé Goudé was the leader of an armed pro-Gbagbo political movement called the Alliance des Jeunes Patriotes pour le Sursaut National (Alliance of Young Patriots for a National Awakening). Both were charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, other inhumane acts, and persecution, committed during the 2010–11 Ivorian Civil War. Specifically, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were accused of being responsible for

  • violence committed between December 16 and December 19, 2010, against supporters of Gbagbo’s presidential rival, Alassane Ouattara;
  • violence committed during a women’s demonstration on March 3, 2011;
  • shelling a densely populated area in the city of Abobo on March 17, 2011; and
  • shelling a densely populated area in the city of Yopougon on or about April 12, 2011.

In an oral decision of January 15, 2019, the ICC Trial Chamber acquitted both defendants on all four charges. This acquittal occurred before the defense had even presented any evidence, as a majority of the court’s judges found that the prosecution’s evidence was “exceptionally weak.” In its recent motion for mistrial, the prosecution argues that, according to the ICC Statutes, the Trial Chamber should have issued a full written decision, including a “full and reasoned statement” of the findings on the evidence and conclusions. The prosecution also argues that the Trial Chamber failed to define a clear and consistent standard of proof or approach to assess the sufficiency of evidence.

Blé Goudé to Be Tried in Côte d’Ivoire

Separate from the ICC appeal, the prosecutor’s office for the Ivorian city of Abidjan announced on November 7, 2019, that Blé Goudé would be tried in the criminal court of that city for charges including torture, homicide, inhumane treatment, rape, indecent assault, and assassination. While these charges are of a similar nature to those before the ICC, the Abidjan Criminal Court will try Blé Goudé for different acts committed over a larger time period.