Prosecutors sought Monday to overturn former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s acquittal last year on crimes against humanity charges stemming from his alleged role in post-election violence that killed 3,000 people nearly a decade ago.
Gbagbo and former Ivorian youth minister Charles Ble Goude have both been unable to return to the West African nation since their January 2019 acquittals under the terms of their release set by the International Criminal Court. They remain in Belgium and have handed over their passports awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
“In the second ground of appeal, the Prosecutor submits that the majority erred in law and/or procedure in acquitting Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Blé Goude without properly articulating and consistently applying a clearly defined standard of proof or approach to assessing the sufficiency of the evidence at this stage, judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said.
Their trial had been halted at the halfway stage when the court said prosecutors had failed to prove their case. In appealing that decision, the prosecutor’s office said that decision was “legally and procedurally defective such that it cannot have the legal effect of dismissing all charges against M. Gbagbo and Mr. Ble Goude.”
No decision is immediately expected but the the developments are being closely watched back in Ivory Coast, where both men still have sizable followings and political aspirations. If the verdict is overturned, prosecutors have said they intend to retry the pair.
Gbagbo’s supporters, though, have said they want him to run in the upcoming presidential election set for October, a move that could reignite the country’s simmering political crisis nine years after he lost in an election and was removed from office by force.
Ivory Coast’s government is still led by President Alassane Ouattara, the man who ultimately prevailed over Gbagbo in the 2010 poll. Gbagbo had claimed victory in the election, but the official results showed that he fell short of that with 46% of that vote. Gbagbo maintains a strong base of supporters who allege they have been left out the country’s reconciliation process in the years since his ouster.