Charles Ble Goude, a youth minister in former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo’s administration is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Thursday, according to Fadi El Abdallah, spokesperson of the ICC.
The ICC accuses Ble Goude of four counts of crimes against humanity, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, murder, persecution, and other inhuman acts. He allegedly committed the crimes in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011.
The ICC placed Ble Goude in custody over the weekend after Ivory Coast’s government extradited him to the Hague-based court. The ICC issued an arrest warrant on September 30 following an investigation into human rights violations during the country’s conflict.
“The initial appearance is only a hearing in order to determine the identity of the person and the language in which he will be capable of following the procedure, and to inform him to make sure that he understands the charges that are brought against him,” said Abdallah. “It’s a brief hearing and at the end of it the judge would indicate what would be the date for the confirmation of charges hearing.”
The confirmation of the charges hearing, Abdallah says, allows the judges to determine whether the ICC prosecutor has sufficient evidence that justifies a trial for the case against Ble Goude.
“If there [is] no sufficient evidence, the judges can stop the proceeding at the primary stage,” said Abdallah.
He says the trial will allow Ble Goude’s defense team to challenge the ICC charges.
“There is need for this additional step, which is the confirmation of charges for the defense to be informed of the evidence that the prosecutor has. To be able to challenge that to present to the judges the results of their own investigation or counter investigation about this before the judges make a finding whether or not to commit this case for a trial,” said Abdallah.
Ble Goude’s supporters say his trial over charges of human rights violations during the conflict is more proof that the Hague-based court is biased. They contend that rights groups accused both sides of committing human rights violations during the conflict, but only supporters of Gbagbo face prosecution.
Abdallah denied the ICC singled out supporters of Gbagbo for prosecution.
“The answer is a strong no. First the prosecutor investigates in the framework that has been established by the chamber and the chamber directed the prosecutor to investigate allegations of crimes humanity allegedly committed by both camps,” said Abdallah.
“This is not the end of the work of the prosecution in Ivory Coast. The investigations are continuing and they are collecting more evidence,” said Abdallah. “When warranted, the prosecutor will bring further cases before the ICC judges without fear or favor and irrespective of sides of political affiliation of the perpetrators.”