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Ivory Coast Opposition Condemns Member’s ICC Arrest Warrant

  • Peter Clottey

Leader of the Young Patriots militia Charles Ble Goude (C) greets members of the militia and supporters of Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, during a rally in support of the Ivorian armed forces, at Champroux Stadium in Abidjan January 23, 20

Leader of the Young Patriots militia Charles Ble Goude (C) greets members of the militia and supporters of Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, during a rally in support of the Ivorian armed forces, at Champroux Stadium in Abidjan January 23, 20

A leading member of Ivory Coast opposition says the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant for Charles Ble Goude will undermine any attempt to stabilize the country.

Ble Goude was the leader of a militia loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo called the Young Patriots. The court is trying the former president for alleged crimes against humanity in the post-election violence three years ago. The youth group is accused of coordinating attacks against critics of Gbagbo’s former government.

Kone Katinan, a former minister in charge of budget and spokesman of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, said the warrant is proof of the ICC’s bias against the opposition.

“This warrant is the last evidence that we cannot trust this court, it is also evidence that the court cannot be an impartial court,” said Katinan. “How do you think that after the political crisis in our country, only Gbagbo’s people are under pressure like this? And for those who are on [President Alassane] Ouattara side, we don’t see anything about them.”

Over 3,000 people were killed during the 2010-post election violence. The Hague-based court accuses Ble Goude of coordinating attacks against civilians believed to oppose then-Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

The court says Ble Goude, who led Gbagbo’s Young Patriots movement, had the power to control militias that attacked specific ethnic or religious communities in Abidjan and in western Ivory Coast. He is also accused of helping recruit and arm thousands of volunteers for the militias, which operated in concert with the army.

But, Katinan rejected the accusation as unfounded.

“We never [saw] Ble Goude with any weapons, so we cannot agree with the prosecutor that [he] armed people to fight. Ble Goude was the leader of the Young Patriots who were fighting for the freedom of the country. They didn’t use any arms,” said Katinan. “So how can you put one side under pressure but the other side, it’s OK as if they didn’t do anything? This is not serious, and we cannot agree with that.”

Katinan accused the court of persecuting close allies of former President Gbagbo, and said the ICC cannot be trusted to administer impartial justice.

“I am sad because we discovered that this court cannot bring justice in this world,” said Katinan. “For us, this is just a political case because we are pro-Gbagbo people who have been close with president Gbagbo. All those [supporters] are without rights, so they can do anything they want against us.”

Katinan contends that it is not a crime to organize the political wing of Gbagbo’s former ruling party.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused former president Laurent Gbagbo of crimes against humanity in the country's 2010-11 post-election conflict.

But, Katinan questioned the court’s justification in detaining the former leader for at least two years without any trial.

“How can you explain that President Gbagbo in jail [at the ICC]? They didn’t get any evidence to charge him, they remanded him and they didn’t finish his trial, [yet] they need somebody else to come there? How can you explain this behavior about this court?” asked Katinan.
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