By Thomas Verfuss
Lawyers for Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé have described their clients’ acquittal as a victory not only for their clients, but also for justice
Speaking at a short press conference in The Hague after, Gbagbo’s lead counsel Emmanuel Altit declared: “This is a victory not only for a man who has been unjustly accused, it is also a victory for the ICC, because it has been shown that the judges are independent.” Blé Goudé’s lead counsel Geert-Jan Knoops said that the judges had shown they are professionals who look at the facts.
On Tuesday morning, the trial chamber acquitted the two accused of all charges because the prosecution had failed to demonstrate the existence of a common plan and a state or organisational policy to attack a civilian population – a precondition for a conviction for crimes against humanity. The two politicians had been charged with murder and rape. The judges did not deny that terrible things happened during the post-election violence in 2010/11, but said the relevant link with the accused had not been established.
Their immediate release has been suspended until a hearing on Wednesday when the prosecution will get an opportunity to oppose it.
Gbagbo is relieved after difficult years. According to the defence it is too early to talk about a request for compensation for the time spent in detention, or about a possible return of the 73-year-old former president to Cote d’Ivoire.
The Gbagbo defence recalled: “We have given lots of evidence about the crimes of the Ouattara camp.” Alassane Ouattara is the current president who defeated Gbagbo in the 2010 elections. It is up to the Prosecutor to do with that evidence what she has to do, Altit declared.