''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XII No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Thursday January 28, 2016 - Trial of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his street general Charles Ble' Goude' begins in the Hague. They both face four charges of crimes against humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or in the alternative - attempted murder, and persecution).Former Ivory Coast President Gbagbo. He used illegal means to stay in power using his men to commit murder, rape and arson.ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says she's sending a message that impunity would not be encouraged.

According to the ICC, seventy year old former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was surrendered to the court on November 30, 2011 and on June 12 2014, the Pre-trial Chamber confirmed the charges he's now facing.

44-year-old Charles Ble' Goude' was taken into the custody of the ICC on March 22, 2014 after he was arrested by Ivory Coast authorities on an arrest warrant issued by the court on December 21, 2011. Both men will now have the opportunity to defend themselves against the charges - a chance their alleged victims were never given.

The Canadian news outlet, the CBC had this as a part of its report on the opening day of the trial -

"Hundreds of Gbagbo's supporters gathered outside as the hearing began, demanding the release of a man they say is a victim of neo-colonial meddling by former colonial power France.

Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser insisted the court would not be used for political grandstanding during the trial, which will also weigh charges against former youth leader Charles Ble Goude. He pleaded not guilty to four counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. "This is not a game," Tarfusser said. "The chamber will not allow this trial to be used as a political instrument in any way whatsoever. Rising stiffly, Gbagbo, 70, said: "I plead not guilty." Ble Goude, 44, known as the "general of the streets" for his fiery speeches during the 2011 crisis, added that he "did not recognise" the charges.

Supporters say Gbagbo is being punished for standing up to the former colonial power. "We want him to be released," said Michele, a Paris-based Ivorian protesting outside the court. "France intervened to oust Gbagbo and install a rebel chief," she added, referring to Ouattara, still seen by many Gbagbo supporters as illegitimate despite his re-election last year.

Gbagbo's supporters accuse the court of being selective in its prosecutions, though court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Wednesday she had stepped up investigations into the pro-Ouattara camp."

The BBC's Anna Holligan had this

"Inside the courtroom, Laurent Gbagbo seemed unsteady, leaning on his desk as he pleaded not guilty. His co-accused, Charles Ble Goude, gave a more defiant response, telling the judges: "I do not recognise the charges."

Prosecutors said Mr Ble Goude had acted as a spin doctor. He called himself the "street general". Archive footage played in court showed him comparing himself to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's media adviser Alastair Campbell. Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda used her opening statement to focus on the victims.

She spoke of one woman who was arrested during a peaceful march in Abidjan and detained for three days. During that time, Ms Bensouda said, the woman was gang-raped by police officers - the very people who were supposed to protect her.

Outside protesters playing on bongo drums complained of "victor's justice". To date none of President Alassane Ouattara's supporters have been charged by the ICC.

Mr Gbagbo sparked a crisis in Ivory Coast after he refused to step down following his loss to Alassane Ouattara in the 2010 presidential vote...The prosecution said it currently planned to bring forward 138 witnesses.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had the previous day told the media that the ICC had enough evidence to support the charges against the two accused men. When the trial opened she emphasised -

"Let me be clear from the outset: this trial is not about who won the 2010 elections. Nor is it about who should have won those elections. It is about the individual criminal responsibility of the two Accused for crimes committed in the 2010 post-election violence which fall under the jurisdiction of this Court.

It is about their responsibility for crimes committed by the armed forces of Côte d'Ivoire, and by youth groups, militia and mercenaries – in furtherance of a plan to keep Laurent Gbagbo in power by all means." She went on to highlight portions of the evidence which she says made it mandatory for the ICC to try the men on the charges preferred against them.Charles Ble Goude, Gbagbo's street general - his men were as lawless as they were callous with lives of perceived opponents.

"Allow me to briefly share the harrowing story of one of the witnesses whom the Prosecution will call – she was a victim of rape. We call her P-0350 in these proceedings, to protect her identity.

P-0350 will testify about how on 16 December 2010, she was marching towards the headquarters of the RTI. She was supporting the Rassemblement des Républicains or RDR – Ouattara's political party. Because of her political affiliation, she was arrested by the Gendarmerie. She was then detained at the Prefecture of the Police, with other civilians.

She was held separately with other women for three days. During those dark three days, she was raped – gang raped – at the Prefecture of the Police, by armed gendarmes – whose very job it was to protect civilians from violence.

The other women detained with her were also repeatedly gang raped. P-0350 was subjected to these heinous crimes because she merely joined a march in support of Mr Ouattara. This Court must give hope to the victims of such unspeakable crimes that justice will be had, and that justice will prevail."

The prosecutor had this other harrowing account -

"You will hear evidence that on 24 February 2011, Mr Laurent Gbagbo ordered his army not to lose Abobo.

Your Honours, Abobo is a densely populated neighbourhood of Abidjan. The majority of its inhabitants come from the Northern parts of Côte d'Ivoire. Following this order, Abobo became the theatre of persecutory violence perpetrated by pro-Gbagbo forces.

On 3 March 2011, over 3,000 women gathered in Abobo to demand Mr Gbagbo's resignation and to protest against human rights violations in their neighbourhood. They carried only tree branches and banners. They were unarmed. They were peaceful. Then an FDS convoy driving from an FDS camp based in Abobo opened fire at these unarmed demonstrators. Seven women were murdered in cold-blood, several others were injured; their shattered, bloodied bodies lay behind on the road.Presiding ICC judge Cuno Tarfusser (Italy)

You will hear how Mr Gbagbo's government and the FDS responded to this incident at the time – denying on the state-controlled television any responsibility for the killings. You will hear how the pro-Gbagbo media claimed the incident was staged; how Gbagbo's Council of Ministers claimed that allegations against the FDS were fabricated, how Charles Blé Goudé said on 23 March 2011 that the FDS couldn't be responsible for this incident because Abobo was in rebel hands at the time.

In the face of undeniable evidence that these women were killed by shots fired from an FDS vehicle, these repeated denials of FDS responsibility are betraying the truth. And that truth is that Mr Gbagbo and his inner circle intended to cover-up these crimes; that these crimes were in fact perpetrated in furtherance of their Common Plan.

The Prosecution will prove that these denials were a coordinated fabrication.

We will show – from amongst the body of evidence in this case - high-definition video footage of the demonstration. The footage is distressing because it captures the violent truth of what happened on 3 March 2011. You will see this footage and hear from an expert who will testify to its authenticity. He will confirm that the video is not a montage.

You will see how smoke emerges from the canon of an FDS armoured vehicle, as it shoots at the peaceful women demonstrators.

The Prosecution will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that seven women were murdered on 3 March 2011, by the FDS. We will prove who these victims were through the evidence of their relatives and friends, and through DNA analysis. These women had names; they were mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. These women who so violently died were very real. They also became victims of the Accused's resort to violence as politics by other means."

The trial and this scenario painted by the words of the ICC Prosecutor should be a warning to Sierra Leone's version of the Laurent Gbagbo murderous and extremely violent campaign to stay in power at all cost and more importantly his failure to investigate reports of rape, murder and violence committed against perceived opponents.

It is on record that despite promises to investigate allegations of extreme violence and murder by security forces, either no such investigations were carried out or where they were done and reports and recommendations published, nothing was done to bring the perpetrators to justice. The murder of one Mustapha and his female friend in which the police are reported to have been involved in the investigations have come to nought as rumours doing the rounds in Freetown say State House knew more than it's occupants were ready to admit.

It took the bold move by the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone to bring to light the circumstances leading to the murder of unarmed protester Musu Conteh who was deliberately shot and killed by security forces under the direction and command of the rat at State House.

Recommendations by the Commission continue to gather dust at State House even though the perpetrators were clearly identified in the report.

The same callousness was displayed after the Shears-Moses report after reports of violence, including those of a sexual nature were levied against members of the ruling APC party and security forces who launched a broad daylight attack on the offices of the opposition Sierra Leone People's party, the SLPP.

Again nothing was done after the Kelvin Lewis report into violence in Bo during the visit of the opposition Presidential flag-bearer, one Julius Maada Bio who received a head wound after he was attacked by alleged ruling party supporters. During that violent confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties, one unarmed bike rider was shot dead by an armed policeman, who was identified in the report. The killer is believed to be still serving in a force that is known to be the armed wing/militia of the ruling APC party. (The OSD)

It is worth noting what a rights group in Sierra Leone had to say in an article titled -

"Contradictions in Promoting Accountability: The Sierra Leone Government Must Implement the Recommendations of the Shears-Moses Commission of Inquiry"

in which it stated in part -

"No state should condone or even give an appearance of condoning violence. Every effort must be made to prevent or combat violence, when it happens. When the March 2008 wave of politically-motivated violence happened, President Koroma had an opportunity to put down a marker and set the tone for what the rest of his tenure would look in terms of his government’s approach to violence. Unfortunately, he failed to latch on to it.

This piece seeks to examine how the Sierra Leone government’s clear unwillingness to enforce the recommendations contained in the report of the Shears Moses Commission of Inquiry may have contributed to subsequent incidents of violence.

It also examines the government’s half-hearted commitment to implementing some of the recommendations of the Commission. The Commission was set up to look into the circumstances leading to the incidents of politically-motivated violence in Gendema, Freetown and Kenema, and the spate of intolerance occurring in 2009. Led by one of Sierra Leone’s distinguished legal practitioners, the Commission of Inquiry was to investigate the role of politicians, police officers, party supporters, and government officials in the violence.

The Commission completed its work, and submitted a report to the government in 2009.

It took the government nearly three years to publish the report and a White Paper, contrary to Section 149 (2) of the 1991 Constitution. The President was required by law to publish the report and a White Paper within six months of the date of the submission of the report.

Additionally, Section 149(3) states that where the report is not published, the President shall issue a statement to the effect explaining reasons for the delay. To clearly contravene a constitutional provision not only hurts, but it also undermines efforts to foster accountability at all levels in governance. Yes, the President took an oath to uphold the Constitution of Sierra Leone, and he must simply remain committed to it. It’s simply unacceptable to do otherwise. His legal advisers should know better! 

We would again remind the rat, the uncaring smoke and mirrors occupant of State House that the ICC can intervene where a state displays an unwillingness or inability to bring to justice people who commit human rights abuses in that state as was witnessed in the Ivory Coast scenario.

And also to remind them of what the ICC Prosecutor said on Thursday.

"Despite the severity of the crime, there was no official investigation into the murder of these seven women. In fact, there was no genuine investigation of any of the crimes committed by the FDS or the pro-Gbagbo youth, militia and mercenaries; only cover-ups.

While in a position to do so, Mr Gbagbo never ordered the murder, physical violence, rape and persecution of civilians carried out in his name to stop.

His actions and deliberate inaction led to the commission of crimes. As Mr Gbagbo told the FDS on 27 August 2010: "If errors are made, we will handle the situation."

And he did, and you will hear how during this trial. In such efforts, he was supported by Charles Blé Goudé. Mr Blé Goudé never instructed the youth to refrain from any kind of physical violence. On the contrary; we will adduce evidence that he in fact intervened to direct their actions, to tell them they should be better organized, and to carry on their "good work."

And it is ironic that it was the rat who was sent to Ivory Coast to persuade Laurent Gbagbo not to extend his term in office illegally with his then Information minister I B Kargbo hinting on the use of force should Gbagbo refuse to leave power.


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