Fatou Bensouda, the ICC Chief Prosecutor, has refuted rumours that her witnesses were withdrawing from the Laurent Gbagbo case and that the prosecution was not ready to begin the trial.
Her statement was issued on Wednesday in a press conference a day before the trial of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Ble’ Goude was to begin at The Hague, Netherlands.
They both face four counts of crimes against humanity stemming from the violence surrounding the 2010 presidential election.
Read: Gbagbo and Ble Goude plead not guilty’ to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Bensouda together with Mr. Eric MacDonald, Senior Trial Lawyer for the Prosecution in the trial said the trial is ‘to uncover the truth through a purely legal process’.
The prosecution further reiterated that no prosecution witnesses have withdrawn from the case; the Prosecution is ready for trial; contrary to rumours, we have never sought to postpone the date of this trial. We are confident that the evidence we have collected will meet the threshold required to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.
“Falsehoods do not serve the ends of justice and are an affront to the suffering of the victims of the serious crimes at the centre of this case. The truth is what the public deserves and the victims demand. The Court, will be ready to provide you accurate and updated information as this important trial progresses,” She reiterated.
“Over the next months, my Prosecution team will present its case that the accused are guilty of crimes against humanity. Our case is based on the law as set out in the Rome Statute – the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court’) – and on the strength of the evidence our investigations have gathered,” she added.
“We are here for the victims and for the truth, to ensure that the ICC’s mandate is implemented. At this juncture, let me conclude by also clearly reaffirming that our investigations in Côte d’Ivoire continue. My Office will leave no stone unturned as we seek to ensure justice and accountability on all sides. That is what the Office’s legal mandate requires, that is what the victims deserve, and that is what the Prosecution is most committed to and is working to achieve.”
Gbagbo’s defence lawyer, Emmanuel Altit, insisted Wednesday that it was “an important trial for Cote d’Ivoire and for Africa.”
“A trial which will make it possible to clarify and understand the tragic events that occurred in that country,” he said.
Gbagbo’s wife Simone is also wanted for crimes against humanity by the ICC.
The victims in the case are represented by Paolina Massidda, and the Defence Counsel for Mr Blé Goudé is Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops.
The trial will be heard within the Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court composed of presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser (Italy), Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia (Dominican Republic) and Judge Geoffrey Henderson (Trinidad and Tobago).