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Ivory Coast ex-President Gbagbo acquitted at ICC court in The Hague

BBC | The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has acquitted Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo.

He had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced.

Mr Gbagbo was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

He was the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC.

What was Mr Gbagbo accused of?

The violence in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept that he had lost a disputed election run-off to Mr Ouattara in 2010.

The five months of violence that followed were described as some of the most brutal clashes the country had ever seen.

During the political stand-off there were bloody clashes and targeted killings in Abidjan in the south, and several hundred were massacred in the western town of Duekoue.

Prosecutors said Mr Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” and charged him with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”.

He denied the charges, which he said were politically motivated.

ICC judges ruled on Tuesday that he had no case to answer and ordered his immediate release.

Prosecutors had failed to demonstrate “the existence of a ‘common plan’ to keep Mr Gbagbo in power” which included crimes against civilians, or a “policy to attack a civilian population”, the ICC said.

Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the prosecution had also “failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Gbagbo constituted ordering or inducing the alleged crimes”.

Prosecutors can appeal after the court files its decision in writing.

Mr Gbagbo’s supporters whooped, cheered and threw their firsts in the air in the public gallery following the announcement, the BBC’s Anna Holligan reports from the court.

One of his supporters, Gragbayou Yves, who had travelled to the court from Paris, told AFP news agency: “I am very, very happy. Finally there is some justice.”

However, victims of the violence are opposed to his release.

“If Laurent Gbagbo is released, we victims will not see justice,” Karim Coulibaly, who was shot in the violence and had to have his arm amputated, told AFP earlier.

“I was a driver but now I am unemployed. I’m not against reconciliation but first you have to look after the victims.”

Paolina Massidda, a lawyer representing the victims said she “deeply regrets” the decision.

“The victims participated in this trial in the hope that an impartial tribunal could one day give them justice. That hope is today in vain,” she added.

Is this a blow to the ICC?

“Whenever a case involving mass atrocities essentially collapses at the ICC, it does damage to the perception of the court as a credible and effective institution of international justice,” Mark Kersten, author of Justice in Conflict, told the BBC’s Anna Holligan.

“Many are concerned that the court is emerging as an institution where only rebels can be successfully prosecuted,” he added.

The prosecution at the ICC has also failed in its attempts to build successful cases against former DR Congo Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

On the other hand, the ruling demonstrates the judges’ independence and impartiality and makes it harder to push the narrative, popular among those who fear the long arm of the ICC, that the court is a biased weapon of neo-colonial justice used purely to convict African leaders, our correspondent says.

Janet Anderson, a writer for the Justice Tribune, told the BBC: “It’s important also to find people not guilty or to find there isn’t a case to answer if there isn’t one.”

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  1. Mr Gbagbo spoke against the Almighty CFA, crossing the line with almighty France in Francophonie territory.
    The arrest and incarceration of Mr Gbagbo was to ensure that a French governor in line of Boigny will remain incharge of the Ivory Coast.
    He charges include 3000 killed and 500,000 displaced.
    In Cameroon another Francophonie plantation we have 20,000 Anglophones killed, 500,000 displaced, 120,000 refugees in Nigeria and 210 villages burnt. Where is the ICC?
    The president of Cameroon serves the interests of France and he is for CFA so he will be mummified in power like in Gabon or Togo.
    As colonial as the ICC is, it is still able to render some sort of justice to Mr Gbagbo, something that Marafa, Inoni, Ayuk Tabe will never get in a Cameroon Court.
    The ICC is therefore better!

  2. Its strange how France tries to humiliate any Franceafrique leader who tries to rebel against French slavery and colonialism in Africa..We all know its about protesting against the CFA and French occupation of its colony…
    if these guy is in jail for 7 years and set free because of lack of enough evidence, then FRANCOFOOL africans should start waking up..,
    A despot like Biya, who has no plan and has no vision for Africa nor cameroon should be the one to face such charges ..he is supposed to be hanged for the killings in southern cameroon and the stealings that have caused mass poverty in cameroon..

    • @Biko,
      You touch the problem with your fingers but skirted round the real lessons to be learned.
      It is not enough to clamor for the ICC, go there and face the accused without credible watertight proof or evidence worthy of a conviction. With all the loud noises we make, video and audio recordings, how many actually meet the requirement of linking crime with offender? Is it enough to show gory pictures of piles of corpses in Bamenda Hospital mortuary or Kake roundabout?

  3. The day the so called “enlightened ” Africans start thinking critically and not emotionally about all move of the west / the white man when it comes to African people, that day will be a good beginning!

    Of course they have no choice but to liberate him and Blé G. Bagbo shouldn’t be jailed in the first place.
    It is Good that this son of the soil is free, but things should not stop there.
    This should be the beginning of the real libération of Africa.
    The African people should ask for Sarkozy to be brought to court.
    More than 3000 lives are not equal to 7 years of an innocent man jailed!
    The question is What next?
    Some weak brains should stop jubilating and start asking real questions!
    We will talk JUSTICE when we se Sarkozy in jail.
    The ICC is a kanguru court per excellence!

  4. Akwanga and cohorts should not be relieved tho, Den Haag will move on after this trial….hiring of child soldiers, beheading, kidnapping of kids..cannot slip through the fingers of ICC…

    • Boy, I watched a video wherein those zombie devils were cutting off the head of a supposed soldier… Man, I regret watching that video because it has transformed me into something else and I won’t mind watching the same treatment being given to Ayaba Cho and the others. These fellows will NOT go unpunished.

      The demons kept cutting, and the one with the cutlass asked his partners to turn the poor boy around… and he continued cutting until they severed that boy’s head and put it on the ground. I could not believe my eyes, man.

      Well, they filmed it themselves and uploaded it with pride. But justice will get hold of them… all of them that are sponsoring such barbarism while thinking that they are hiding in Europe and North America.

      • Without approving beheading and any forms of torture, I am inclined to think those who torture and behead today, like you were transformed by some horrible act.

        it is a cycle!

        • Is that a justification? If it is, according to what you seem to be suggesting, a civilised society must find ways to eradicate such demonic practices before they become an existential threat to society. I am making a catalogue of all these barbaric acts just so you know.

      • Oh Ras Monkey Tuge,

        So you watch that head cutting but you didn’t watch the one your terrorist army was cutting Sam Soya’s head like a he-goat? Make I catch you I go cut that your own Na with axe like Kashiogi. Sheggeh.

  5. What, is there to pin Mr. Biya / co to crimes against humanity etc as long as
    the Anglophone crisis is concerned. The delay for even the few interested
    parties – UK, US, might mean he is also not guilty, perhaps.
    Each time i hear them talk on cameroon, there seem to be a mix up with
    Boko Haram. But the two, are not same.

  6. after inslaving our ancestors for five hundred years to build their material confort.the aryan still has the audacity to capture one of ours and put in prison in den haag a city that was build on the blood of our ancestors.
    this is prove we have not done enough to correct our mistakes,and take a historic revenge.
    we must persue power at all cost.the number of scientist and engineers we train in africa must grow at the pace of european population growth.things must be calculated in a way before 50 years our engineers and scientist will make up the population of the aryan world.
    we have been humiliated with use of sceinces and technic.it is through the same sciences and technic that we shall catch up reserves the power balance.

  7. Now that Laurent Gbagbo has suffered seven years of undue imprisonment and loss of liberty, this is the time for a counter suit in the very ICC. Fair enough?