2 February 2019

Cote d'Ivoire: ICC Releases Ivory Coast Ex-President Laurent Gbagbo

Photo: ICC-CPI
Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé in Courtroom I at the seat of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands on 15 January 2019 ©ICC-CPI

Laurent Gbagbo will now be able to live in any country that is willing to take him in. The International Criminal Court had acquitted the former president in January, citing an "exceptionally weak" case

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague freed former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo on Friday. The decision comes more than two weeks after he was acquitted of involvement in deadly violence that erupted after their country's 2010 election.

Gbagbo was release was granted under certain conditions, with Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji ordering Gbagbo and co-defendant Charles Ble Goude "to be released to a state willing to accept them on its territories." The two men were taken to an undisclosed location upon being freed.

Among the conditions, Gbagbo and Goude must return to court if they are summoned, they must turn in their passports and cannot leave the country that agrees to house them.

They also have to report weekly to police or the court and they are barred from contacting witnesses or talking to the press about their case.

Gbagbo and Goude went on trial in January 2016. They were accused of involvement in murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts during post electoral violence.

Former academic Gbagbo had been in power since 2000, but lost the 2010 presidential election to his rival and current Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara. In the disputed elections, western powers and the African Union backed the election results and Ouattara's victory.

In 2011, Gbagbo was captured by Ouattara's troops, with the help of UN and French forces, and sent to the ICC for the trial. But ICC judges stopped the trial on January 15, as it was still underway, citing an "exceptionally weak" prosecution case.

"After two weeks waiting in jail, it's quite a relief," Gbagbo's lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops said of Gbagbo's release. "Somebody who's acquitted should not be detained," he added.

Gbagbo's family has indicated that the former president would like to return to Ivory Coast but said he go to Belgium first. But a potential return to the Ivory Coast would be difficult, as Gbagbo was handed a 20-year sentence there for embezzlement in January 2018, following a trial in absentia.

It was unclear where Ble Goude would go after his release.

The Gbagbo acquittal represents another major blow for ICC prosecutors, as they have also failed to win convictions for former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2018 and Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014.

(AP, AFP)

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