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    Cote d’Ivoire awaits Gbagbo’s next move

    Cote d’Ivoire awaits Gbagbo’s next move

    June 9, 2020

    Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC

    IVORIANS are awaiting the next move of their former President, Laurent Gbagbo, following the removal of restrictions that had been placed on him and his ex-Minister of Sports and Youth, Charles Blé Goudé, after being freed on all charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court last year.

    The restrictions were lifted at the end of May following an ICC Appeals Chamber hearing in February this year.  

    The two were tried for crimes allegedly committed during post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between December 2010 and April 2011.

    After a three-year trial, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were found not guilty by Trial Chamber 1 on January 15 last year.

    But the Office of the Prosecutor appealed against the judgement and asked for conditions to be placed on the freedom of the two men while it prepared its grounds for appeal.

    Thus, the Appeals Chamber sat on the matter on February 1, 2019 and then imposed limits on their freedom.

    The restrictions include ordering them not to “travel beyond the territorial limits of the municipality of the receiving state without the explicit and prior authorisation of the Court”.

    They were also ordered to hand over their passports.

    Gbagbo went to Belgium while Blé Goudé stayed in The Hague.

    The travel constraints had been imposed because, it was argued, the two men were supposed to make themselves available for the appeal hearing.

    Another constraint is that they are not to contact witnesses and victims, most of whom are in Cote d’Ivoire.

    Even if they want to travel, they would need the consent of the country they plan to visit.

    But would Gbagbo return to Cote d’Ivoire where he still has strong support and where elections are scheduled for October?

    One Gbagbo activist told ALC Pan-African Radio: “Whatever the option, it may seem somewhat difficult for the Ivorian authorities to categorically stop the two acquitted men from returning to their country, if they so ask, at a time when no legal constraints at the moment are physically restraining them in the ICC’s institutions.

    “To do so would probably deprive them of one of their fundamental rights as Ivorian citizens, since the Ivorian constitution of November 8, 2016 clearly states in Article 22 that “no Ivorian can be forced into exile”.

    However, the activist pointed out, Gbagbo and Blé Goudé had been sentenced in absentia by the Ivorian justice system to 20 years’ imprisonment in December 2019 for economic crimes and for crimes against the civilian population.

    “This option would have the effect of curbing their desire to return to Côte d’Ivoire, and perhaps also to keep them away from the political and electoral landscape, the activist said.

    But legal experts point out that once a case is before the ICC, the accused could not be charged with the same offences in a domestic court.

    For now, it is clear that, given the current state of political developments in Cote d’Ivoire, Ivorians might have to wait a little longer before Gbagbo returns.

    In all this, though, Ivorians ae calling for national reconciliation to end the Gbagbo impasse.

    “Now is the time to be talking to each other,” the activist said.

    “There is a time to fight, a time for justice, a time for forgiveness and reconciliation, and a time to rebuild the nation-state.

    “This exercise can only be done with the contribution of all.”

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