International Criminal Court : Laurent Gbagbo, Blé Goudé Free

The former Ivoirian leader and ex-minister were on January 15, 2019 acquitted of charges of crimes against humanity.

After eight years of detention in Scheveningen Prison in The Hague, The Netherlands, former Côte d’Ivoire President, Laurent Gbagbo and ex-minister, Charles Blé Goudé are finally free after the International Criminal Court, ICC, discharged and acquitted them on January 15, 2019.

Judges ruled that Gbagbo and Goudé had no case to answer because the prosecution failed to prove the four-count charges of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts,” against them. Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the prosecution “failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Gbagbo constituted ordering or inducing the alleged crimes,” the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC reported.

“We are happy! This is what we wanted, justice has been done,” Simone Gbagbo, Laurent Gbagbo’s wife told Jeune Afrique magazine from the family home in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. “This man was kept in prison unjustly for eight years. He can now return to his family, country and party supporters. He was accused of terrible things he never did,” she said. “He must be cleared of this humiliation,” Simone Gbagbo added. “I am too happy! It is well beyond my expectations. Thanks to Ivoirians,” Michel Gbagbo, son of the former Head of State, also told Jeune Afrique from Abidjan.

Arrested in Abidjan on April 11, 2011 and first detained in Korhogo in the north of the country, Laurent Gbagbo was later transferred to The Hague on November 29, 2011. His trial opened on January 28, 2016. In 231 hearings, more than 80 witnesses testified. Before his acquittal, Gbagbo’s counsel had unsuccessfully applied 14 times for bail for him.

The violence following the disputed 2010 runoff presidential election in Côte d’Ivoire left 3,000 dead and 500,000 others displaced. This was sequel to Gbagbo’s refusal to concede defeat to Alassane Dramane Ouattara. The five months of clashes were described as some of the most brutal in the country’s history. Laurent Gbagbo was the first former Head of State to stand trial at ICC. The court has also seen cases collapse against former Democratic Republic of Congo Vice President, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta.

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