All smiles, Laurent Gbagbo applauded and raised his thumbs in the air at the statement of the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Almost ten years after the opening of the case, the ICC, based in The Hague, definitively rules out the holding of an appeal trial and closes the case.
The judges rejected the appeal of the ICC prosecutor against the acquittals of the former Ivorian president and one of his relatives, Charles Blé Goudé, former leader of the Young Patriots movement, pronounced in January 2019 at the 'outcome of a trial for crimes against humanity related to post-election violence in 2010 and 2011.
Laurent Gbagbo, the first former head of state tried by the ICC, and Charles Blé Goudé have always proclaimed their innocence in these crimes which killed 3,000 people in Côte d'Ivoire, during the violence born out of Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to recognize at the end of 2010 the presidential victory of his rival Alassane Ouattara.
Ivory Coast: the improbable return of former President Gbagbo
“By majority, the appeals chamber rejects the prosecutor's appeal and upholds the trial chamber's decision,” Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said.
It "repeals (...) all the conditions remaining for the release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goude," he continued, ordering court officials to "make arrangements for the safe transfer of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goudé to the host State (s) ”.
A "new disappointment" for the victims
Amnesty International for its part evoked a "new disappointment" for the victims.
These "have still not obtained justice, no more than reparations for the prejudices suffered", regrets Michèle Eken, researcher on West Africa within the NGO, quoted in a press release.
Since his acquittal at first instance, Laurent Gbagbo has lived in Belgium.
The former president announced in December his desire to return to Côte d'Ivoire, but this return is still pending.
His wife, Simone, said she was "satisfied" and declared that "the ball (was) now in the court of the Ivorian government" for the return of her husband to his country.
Since the procedure before the ICC is now over, "nothing prevents him from returning to Côte d'Ivoire," said his lawyer Emmanuel Altit.
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In Brussels, the new life of former Ivorian President Gbagbo, on parole
"I have only one word in my mouth: unite the Ivorians", for his part declared Charles Blé Goudé, at the end of the hearing, outside the ICC, where dozens of supporters had gathered. gathered.
A return of the two men to Côte d'Ivoire could be hampered by their convictions by the Ivorian justice for acts committed during the post-electoral crisis.
Still popular with his supporters
The ICC decision on the prosecution appeal was expected in Côte d'Ivoire, where the shadow of Laurent Gbagbo still hangs over a nation ravaged by political violence for more than 20 years.
President from 2000 to 2010, Laurent Gbagbo, still very popular among his supporters, was arrested in 2011.
Supporters of former Ivorian President Laurent Bagbo rejoice at the news of his acquittal by the International Criminal Court on March 31, 2021. (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP) SIA KAMBOU
In September 2019, eight months after his acquittal, Attorney General Fatou Bensouda requested an appeal trial, considering that the magistrates had not rendered a reasoned decision in due form and had made errors of law and procedure.
"Exceptionally weak" evidence
The appeals chamber ruled out any procedural error on Wednesday and upheld the trial chamber's findings that the evidence presented by the prosecution was "exceptionally weak".
Fatou Bensouda and his services are under fire from criticism: if the ICC, founded in 2002 to judge the worst atrocities committed in the world, has notably condemned Congolese warlords and a Malian jihadist, the prosecution has failed in its cases the most emblematic.