Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo freed by the International Criminal Court
BY IDRISS KONE
Two years after former Cote d’Ivoire’s president Laurent Gbagbo went on trial for alleged crimes against humanity, the Hague-based International Criminal Court, ICC, today freed the former president and his former youth minister Charles Ble Goude, two weeks after their acquittal.
By a unanimous decision, the five judges of the appeals court’s panel presided by Nigerian judge Chile Eboe-Osuji ordered the release of the two defendants “to a state willing to accept them on its territories.” Their actual release was confirmed to “The African Magazine” by eye witnesses in the Hague.
Gbagbo and Ble Goude were both acquitted on 15 January, but were kept in detention following a last-minute appeal by the prosecution. Even as the two men were poised to be free, the prosecution still planned to appeal their acquittal and said it needed guarantees that they could return to court later if required to.
It’s beyond anybody’s comprehension—probably except that of legal experts—that defendants acquitted of wrongdoing could still be tried for the same alleged crime, and therefore not be set free once for all. Several judges familiar with the case have told “The African Magazine” the case against Gbagbo “is so weak the acquitall could not be reversed.”
Gbagbo’s family and political supporters are dumbfounded by what they view as an irrational decision to contemplate retrying the former president. Many of them buy into the rumors—unverified by “The African Magazine”—that ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s husband, Philippe Bensouda, a businessman allegedly close to Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara, recently secured a business contract worth 12 billion cfa francs (about $25 million) to build low-income homes in Cote d’Ivoire. For those who believe this information relayed by a news organization at the link www.afrik-inform.com, the chief prosecutor is involved in a conflict of interest. Her “stubbornness to not let go,” they feel, “is driven by her husband’s business interests in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Gbagbo’s family wants him back home in Cote d’Ivoire immediately, but his non-return is among several conditions spelled out by the court for his release, not to mention the requirement that he abstains from getting involved in Cote d’Ivoire’s politics. The full list of the requirements relating to the former president’s release are still in the works at the time of this writing.
Gbagbo has stepped back into freedom this Friday nearly eight years after his arrest at the end of the post-election civil war triggered by his refusal to concede defeat after losing the November 2010 run-off against the current president, Alassane Ouattara. His release, however, has not triggered the massive popular celebration caused by the false rumor of his “release” last December, not even the jubilation caused by his acquitall on 15 January. According to our source, Gbagbo’s party members and family are awaiting the release of the conditions relating to his release to make an official announcement.
For sure, Belgium has agreed to accept Gbagbo. It should be noted that the former president was sentenced to 20 years in jail for embezzlement after a trial in absentia in January 2018, which complicates his return home, at least now. It’s unclear, at the time of this writing, where his former youth minister will go.