The International Criminal Court has begun hearing an appeal by the UN tribunal’s chief prosecutor against last year’s acquittal of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on charges of crimes against humanity.
Fatou Bensouda said in her appeal submission that the court erred in clearing Gbagbo and his right-hand man Charles Ble Goude of allegations of post-electoral violence in the restive West African nation in 2010-2011, in which about 3,000 people died.
Gbagbo, the first former head of state to be tried by the ICC, had spent eight years behind bars in The Hague.
The two-day hearing that started on Monday will be “partially virtual” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ICC said.
Gbagbo participated via video call from Belgium, while Ble Goude was present in the courtroom on Monday.
The ICC last month allowed Gbagbo, 75, to leave Belgium where he was being hosted under strict conditions since his release from the court, but said he must return for the prosecution’s appeal.
The ICC said it “will make its judgement on this appeal at a later stage”.
Bensouda in October last year appealed the trial judges’ decision, saying they “committed legal and procedural errors” – including that the majority of the judges only issued their written verdict about six months after an oral acquittal.
Ivory Coast civil war survivors demand justice (3:02)
Judges had also cleared the pair “without properly articulating and consistently applying a clearly defined standard of proof”, she said.
“In sum, justice was not served in this case. The acquittals of Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ble Goude should be reversed and a mistrial declared,” Bensouda said in her submission.
Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) has called on Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara for “dialogue” over his return to the country.
But an association for victims of the violence expressed “energetic opposition” against Gbagbo coming home as the country braces for tense elections scheduled for October.
Gbagbo technically faces being jailed on his return after being sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term by an Ivorian court last November for the “looting” of the local branch of the Central Bank of the West African States (BCEAO) during the post-election crisis.