Flag of Ivory Coast
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced yesterday the existence of an arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude, a former top aide to former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo. Ble Goude’s warrant had been under seal since 2011. Ivory Coast is not formally a state party to the ICC, but accepted the court’s jurisdiction in 2011 and asked the ICC to probe the post-election violence.
Gbagbo was the first former head of state to appear and face charges at the ICC. The pre-trial chamber found insufficient evidence at the confirmation of charges hearing, that determination is being appealed by the Office of the Prosecutor.
Former first lady Simone Gbagbo has also been accused of crimes against humanity, and is in custody in Ivory Coast, which recently declined to send her to The Hague to face charges at the ICC.
Ble Goude fled Ivory Coast after the election defeat, was arrested in Ghana and returned to Ivory Coast in January. The Gbagbos and Ble Goude are accused of Crimes Against Humanity in the post election violence in Ivory Coast.
On 23 November 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber III issued a warrant of arrest for Laurent Gbagbo (“Mr Gbagbo”), having found reasonable grounds to believe that he was criminally responsible as an “indirect co-perpetrator” pursuant to article 25(3)(a) of the Statute for the crimes against humanity of murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane acts and persecution, committed in Côte d’Ivoire during the period between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011. P.2 Decision to Adjourn. Footnotes omitted.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir this week cancelled his trip to New York for the opening session of the United Nations. Bashir was the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC issued a warrant for Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in March 2009. The appeals chamber found the pre-trial chamber’s interpretation of the grounds to issue a warrant too narrow and order the chamber to re-consider it’s decision on genocide. In addition to being the first sitting head of state to be indicted at the ICC, Bashir is the first person to have been charged with genocide at the ICC. There are two warrants for Bashir to appear at the ICC.
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto were charged by the ICC prior to their election to the presidency and deputy presidency. Bashir is charged for his conduct in office, Kenyatta and Ruto are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity prior to their election. The charges against Bashir arise from the situation in Darfur.
Kenyatta and Ruto have appeared at the ICC. Ruto’s trial began this month, Kenyatta’s trial is scheduled to begin later this year. Kenyatta took the unusual step of testifying in his own defense at the confirmation of charges hearing. Bashir has not appeared to face the charges, nor have other members of his government who have been indicted. Major NGOs have often put pressure on other nations to arrest Bashir and send him to the ICC, he has cancelled some trips apparently because of the threat of arrrest.
The government of the Ivory Coast has denied the request of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to surrender its former first lady, Simone Gbagbo to the ICC. A warrant was issued for Simone Gbagbo last year, her husband, former President, Laurent Gbagbo was indicted and surrendered to the ICC following post-election violence.
Ivory Coast had not ratified the treaty when Laurent Gbagbo was in power, but acceded to the court in 2003, reconfirmed ICC authority in 2010, sought the investigation.
Some have portrayed this as a reaction to growing complaints that the ICC has targeted only African cases, but it may be more a reaction to the serious doubts judges have about the case against Laurent Gbagbo. The pre-trial chamber declined to confirm the charges and instead asked the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to submit further evidence to support the claims. OTP declined and instead appealed the decision.
Laurent Gbagbo also argued that his case was not admissible and belonged in Ivory Coast. The pre-trial chamber based its ruling on the OTP’s presentation primarily of “anonymous hearsay evidence” and found that the evidence presented to date had not established Laurent Gbagbo’s role as an “indirect co-perpetrator” of Crimes Against Humanity, including “murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane acts and persecution.”
The case against Simone Gbagbo relies on similar evidence and though she is charged separately, she faces similar, possibly the same allegations. A warrant of arrest has been issued, but not an indictment, so it is not clear if the accusations are identical or not.
Libya has also refused to turn the two indictees under its control to The Hague.
Trial Chamber V(a) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today suspended the trial of William Ruto, and Joshua Arap Sang and excused Mr. Ruto from The Hague for a week. Ruto is the Deputy President of Kenya, and in light of the recent attack in Nairobi, the court agreed with the defense request to allow him to leave and tend to official duties in Kenya.
The Office of the Prosecutor and the representatives of victims present in the court did not object to excusing Ruto from the trial, but argued against suspending the trial, the court reached this conclusion:
On 23 September 2013, Trial Chamber V(a) excused Mr Ruto from trial proceedings for one week in light of the circumstances in Kenya and subsequently decided to adjourn the trial.
The Chamber noted that the Defence for Mr Ruto has indicated an intention to file a request to the Appeals Chamber on 23 September 2013 for reconsideration of its decision on suspensive effect regarding the Prosecutor’s appeal of the decision excusing Mr Ruto from continuous presence at trial.
The trial is adjourned pending either the Appeals Chamber’s decision on the Defence’s urgent request or the expiration of the one-week excusal period, whichever comes earlier.
On 18 June 2013, Trial Chamber V(a) had issued a decision excusing Mr Ruto from being continuously physically present at trial, except for specified hearings. However the Prosecutor appealed this decision and the Appeals Chamber gave the Prosecutor’s request suspensive effect until a final decision on this appeal is made. This meant that Mr Ruto was requested to be present during all trial hearings pending the final determination on the Prosecutor’s appeal.
Ruto and Sang are charged with Crimes against Humanity including murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population and persecution in connection with post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-2008. Sang is a broadcaster, Ruto was elected Deputy President in March. Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta is also set for trial in connection with the post-election violence later this year. Both trials have faced issues with witnesses withdrawing and refusing to testify at trial.