December 18th 2017

World / Africa & Diaspora

Gbagbo to know his fate as ICC judges rule on his appeal

The documented deaths following the deadly violence is estimated at 3,000. A number so huge that it could easily catch the eye of the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo is the first ex-head of state to cool his heels behind bars in such a high-profile Court.

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 19 Jul 2017 14:59 EAT

Mr Gbagbo.

The ICC’s war crimes judges will determine whether Laurent Gbagbo can be released from  prison for the remaining part of his trial on charges springing from the fatal post-election violence in 2011.

The former Ivorian President has appealed a March decision directing that he must stay behind bars in a UN detention Centre until the  end of the legal process.

On Wednesday (today), July 19, 2017 a five-judge appeal court will “deliver its judgement” on the appeal at 1430 GMT, the court said in a statement seen by  Reuters.

 Former president Laurent Gbagbo, 72, picked his date with the global court after his overweening refusal to concede defeat to his political arch-rival Mr Alassane Ouattara. Mr Gbagbo’s clinging to power sparked off spontaneous riots which snow-balled into violence, with fatal consequences.

Ivory Coast plunged into civil war in 2011 after Mr Gbagbo refused to pave way for smooth transition of power to Mr Outtara in a presidential runoff election.

The documented deaths following the deadly violence is estimated at 3,000. Gbagbo is the first ex-head of state to cool his heels behind bars in such a high-profile Court.

Gbagbo was arrested alongside his former militia leader, Charles Ble Goude, 45. In their desperate attempt to unshackle themselves from the clutches of the court, the duo have both pleaded not guilty to the four charges of crimes against humanity including homicide, rape and persecution - in the five months of bloodbath that wracked Ivory Coast.

ICC prosecutors blame him for trying to cling to power “by all possible means” while his defense team has charged that Ouattara seized power by force with the help of former colonial power, France.

In March, according to Reuters, his defense team made a new bid to win Gbagbo’s release, arguing that he, “has already been detained for almost six years and has serious health problems.

Prosecution said the former leader still enjoyed a strong network of support and if he were freed “he could abscond to a territory out of the reach of the Court, ICC".

In a majority two-to-one decision, the judges ruled he had to stay in jail.

However, in a dissenting opinion, which Gbagbo’s defense has seized on – Judge Cuno Tarfusser said  his detention “has exceeded the threshold of a reasonable duration and that, in light of his age and health, the risk that he might abscond from justice becomes increasingly unlikely.”

Rights activists, as reported by Reuters, thought it was unlikely Gbagbo would be freed. Carrie Comer of the Federation International for Human Rights (FIDH) said her organization shared concerns that the former Ivorian President “was a flight risk” and highlighted “the sheer gravity of the crimes that he's accused of.”

Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

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