Ivory Coast’s opposition Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) has demanded the immediate release of former President Laurent Gbagbo from the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Boubakar Kone, administrator and organizer of the party.
The former Ivorian leader has been held in custody at the Hague-based court for nearly two years. The ICC is gathering evidence against Mr. Gbagbo for his role in a civil war that followed his refusal to accept the October 2010 presidential vote.
“You cannot investigate your whole life. How much time do they need to investigate? There are other cases to investigate. He’s been there almost two years now. [That] should be enough to investigate this case,” said Kone.
He said it is illegal for the ICC to continue holding Gbagbo.
“In the last two meetings of the party’s Central Committee, a resolution [was drafted saying] since the charges against [former] president Gbagbo are insufficient, he should be immediately released. That is an official demand from the party,” said Kone.
But, critics say Gbagbo should be held accountable for the lives lost during the post-election conflict that arose when he failed to accept electoral defeat.
Kone said the country needs the former president to help promote national reconciliation.
“[They were] unable to prove that all the damage [was] due to president Gbagbo. President Gbagbo still feels that he won the election,[but] he was overthrown by a coup d’état; given that; he cannot be [held] responsible for all the damage,” said Kone. “Investigations were carried, out and the results were that he was not guilty…and the only thing for them to do is to release him. We believe it is as simple as that.”
Some analysts say Gbagbo’s release from the ICC and his subsequent trip to Ivory Coast could reignite tensions and destabilize the country, which is gradually recovering from the 2010 post-election conflict. Kone disagreed.
“All the people of Cote d’Ivoire are demanding that he come to reconcile the people of this country. [It] …is impatient to see president Gbagbo back,” said Kone. “If his absence was something that could bring progress, reconciliation would have already been [done]. Those who are arguing that his return will bring confusion are exactly those who accused him wrongly, and they are afraid.”
Human rights groups accused supporters of both Gbagbo and current President Alassane Ouattara of human rights violations during the conflict.
Kone said the allegations against Gbagbo as well as the refusal of the ICC to release him in spite of what he says is insufficient evidence shows that the charges are politically motivated.
“The [ICC] is saying that there is no sufficient evidence that he is a criminal so why should he be kept? And that is why our party is demanding that he should be released immediately,” continued Kone. “Now if political factors are taken into account, then it is something different and we can negotiate.”