POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School
On March 22, 2014, Ivory Coast (Côte d´Ivoire) authorities delivered Charles Blé Goudé to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by an ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on December 21, 2011. The warrant was based on information that Blé Goudé bears responsibility for crimes committed by militia forces under his command in the aftermath of the Ivory Coast presidential election in November 2010. After the election, a civil war broke out between forces of former President Laurent Gbagbo (who lost his bid for re-election) and supporters of the newly elected President Alassane Ouattara. More than 3,000 people were killed during this civil war. Blé Goudé, a supporter of Gbagbo, is accused of being responsible as an “indirect co-perpetrator” on four counts of crimes against humanity: murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, other inhumane acts, and persecution. All of these acts are listed in Article 7 of the ICC’s Rome Statute as the basis for a charge of crimes against humanity “when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population ….”
The Ivory Coast was not a Party to the ICC’s Rome Statute at the time the crimes charged were committed. The Ivory Coast deposited its instrument of ratification of the Rome Statute on February 15, 2013. However, many years earlier, in April 2003, the Ivory Coast Government under then-President Gbagbo accepted ICC jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory during a previous period of violence. This was done pursuant to Rome Statute Article 12(3), which provides that a non-State Party may lodge a declaration with the ICC accepting jurisdiction over acts committed on its territory that constitute crimes within the ICC’s subject matter jurisdiction. By letters to the ICC in December 2010 and May 2011, newly elected President Ouattara reaffirmed the validity of the April 2003 Declaration (original) and his government’s willingness to cooperate with the ICC.
Following these letters, the ICC Prosecutor requested authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber to initiate an investigation of the Ivory Coast Situation, which the Chamber provided in October 2011. The Chamber found that information submitted by the Prosecutor provided reasonable grounds to believe that pro-Gbagbo forces committed crimes against civilians that are within the ICC’s subject matter jurisdiction. Among the materials submitted by the Prosecutor were several public reports authored by Human Rights Watch and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, informing of murders and rapes committed by pro-Gbagbo forces against civilians who were, or were suspected to be, loyal to Alassane Ouattara.
When two months later, in December 2011, the Pre-Trial Chamber issued the arrest warrant for Blé Goudé, it noted that the Prosecutor’s submission that Blé Goudé is liable as an “indirect co-perpetrator” under Rome Statute Article 25(3)(a) “may well need to be revisited in due course with the parties and participants.” Article 61 of the Rome Statute requires that within a reasonable time after an accused person has been surrendered to the Court, the Pre-Trial Chamber must hold a hearing to confirm the charges. This hearing will provide Blé Goudé an opportunity to challenge the charges against him. It will be the Pre-Trial Chamber’s duty to determine, on the basis of the hearing, whether, pursuant to Article 61(7), “there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the person committed each of the crimes charged.” If one or more of the charges are confirmed and the case goes to trial, the Trial Chamber must be convinced, pursuant to Article 66(3), of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.