By Thomas Verfuss
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Monday appealed the acquittals of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. Fatou Bensouda asked the Appeals Chamber of the ICC to enter a declaration of mistrial in the case of the former president of Ivory Coast and his minister of youth affairs.
According to Bensouda, errors of law and procedure led to the January 15 acquittal, which therefore “must be considered null and void”. If her request is granted, the appeals judges might even order a new trial according to article 83 of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC. Gbagbo, now 74 years old, came into the custody of the court in The Hague in 2011, Blé Goudé in 2014. After their January acquittals they were conditionally set free.
The two politicians are accused of crimes against humanity like murder and rape during the post-election violence after the 2010 presidential elections. About 3,000 Ivorians were killed during months of violence between Gbagbo’s supporters and those of Alassane Ouattara, who has ever since been president of Ivory Coast.
According to a majority of two of the three trial chamber judges, the prosecution has not provided sufficient evidence for a common criminal plan and an organizational policy to commit these crimes, which would have been a precondition for a conviction for crimes against humanity.
Bensouda appeals the acquittal on two grounds. Firstly, the oral acquittal decision in January was not accompanied by a reasoned written motivation, as required by article 74 of the Rome Statute.
The judges felt, however, that they could deviate from this provision as they had already reached the conclusion that the accused had to be acquitted. The majority did not find it responsible to hold the two suspects in custody any longer. Judge Geoffrey Henderson’s written motivation of the acquittal which was published in July, half a year later, is more than 900 pages long.
In its second ground of appeal, the prosecution says that the acquittal is erroneous because the standard of proof and the approach to assessing evidence have not been “properly articulated” and “consistently applied”.
The OTP will further elaborate its reasoning in a document in support of the appeal. The OTP has until mid-October to file that appeal brief.