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International Court Finds Former Ivorian Leader Not Guilty

2019-1-15

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has dismissed all war crimes charges against Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast.

The court announced the decision Tuesday at its offices in The Hague.

The chief judge said prosecutors had failed to prove the accusations against Gbagbo and another defendant, Blé Goudé.

Judge Cuno Tarfusser also said the prosecution failed to show that the former president’s speeches directly incited any crime.

Gbagbo’s defense lawyer said that, “He is happy to have put his faith in the justice process.”

Outside the courthouse, Gbagbo's supporters cheered and danced at the announcement.

But rights groups said the decision denied justice to victims of Ivory Coast’s post-election violence, which lasted from December 2010 to April 2011.

At the time, Gbagbo refused to accept results of the 2010 presidential election. The official results showed that he lost to Alassane Ouattara, who now serves as president of Ivory Coast.

An estimated 3,000 people were killed in the post-election unrest. Jim Wormington of Human Rights Watch told the Reuters news agency that, “Forces loyal to both Gbagbo and Ouattara were responsible for shocking violence.”

ICC faces criticism

Emmanuel Altit (R) defense lawyer of Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo talks to prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (L) as they wait for the start of Gbagbo trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 28, 2016.
Emmanuel Altit (R) defense lawyer of Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo talks to prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (L) as they wait for the start of Gbagbo trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on January 28, 2016.

The dismissal of the charges again Gbagbo marked another defeat for ICC lawyers. They also lost a case against Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ICC ruling against Bemba and his sentence for war crimes charges were overturned in 2018 because of mistakes by the court. Charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta were dropped in 2015.

ICC lawyers have won three war crimes cases in the past 15 years.

Fatou Bensouda of Gambia has served as the chief prosecutor at the ICC since 2012. She is to be replaced next year.

James A. Goldston is a director with the rights group Open Society Justice Initiative, which is based in New York City. Goldston said it is important that the process to choose another top lawyer produces “a person of integrity and sound judgement who is highly skilled at criminal investigations.”

Gbagbo faced four charges including murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. His release means he may return to Ivory Coast to influence or take part in the 2020 presidential election there.

Ivory Coast has one of West Africa’s largest economies and is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted this Reuters story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

prosecutor – n. a lawyer who represents a government agency in a court

faith – n. belief or trust

post - prefix. after or later; later than

integrity –n. the quality of being honest and fair

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