THE THINKER Volume 69 / 2016 INTERNATIONAL
In view of its juridical absurdity we should be taking the ICC very seriously.
Prosecutor v. Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé at the ICC On 3 June 2013 a majority of judges at a pre-trial chamber in the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided that there was not enough evidence to take the former President of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo, to trial for crimes against humanity.1 This decision was taken despite the fact that at the ICC the threshold defining the validity of charges to build a case is much lower at a pre-trial stage than at trial. According to the Court’s own statute,2 adjournment of an entire case is not allowed. While the court is technically bound to take decisions based on this norm, the judges ordered the prosecutor to rewrite the document containing the charges, thus breaching due process. Gbagbo has been held at the ICC since November 2011.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki, in a recent talk held at the launch of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute Alumnae Forum, criticised the ICC’s judicial procedures, which he argued have often fomented war instead of peace. He cited two cases: Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. Mbeki quoted an appeal written by former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, on behalf of the Africa Forum, to the prosecutor at the ICC: “We as Africans,” states the appeal, “believe that President Laurent Gbagbo is critically important for the future of Côte d’Ivoire, for peace and reconciliation in Cote d’Ivoire and that if that matter is not addressed then Côte d’Ivoire is bound to have a civil war resume”.(The Thinker, Quarter 2, 2016) “So here we have a choice,” said Mbeki. “The ICC, they have what is called a pre-trial court: the prosecutor presents charges against whoever, the pre-trial court looks at the charges and assesses whether this case should go to trial. So when the prosecutor presented the evidence, with its three judges sitting together, two of the judges said ‘Madame Prosecutor, you have no case against President Gbagbo.’…instead of saying…President Gbagbo is found not guilty and released…they said we give you nine months to prepare better charges and in the meantime we will keep him detained. Which they did.” 3 “There is nothing serious against Gbagbo, it’s political pressure coming from France and I can do nothing,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reportedly told Central African Republic presidential candidate Pascal Bida Koyagbele. According to South African columnist on foreign affairs Shannon Ebrahim, in her article ‘French Hand in Gbagbo's Fall’, Bensouda’s October 2015 comment was just three months before the trial began.
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