ICC declines to set Laurent Gbagbo free in ruling

Former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo. 

The ICC Appeals Chamber Wednesday declined to release former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo for the rest of his trial on charges arising from deadly election violence that rocked his nation in 2010.

In a statement posted on the International Criminal Court’s website, a three-judge bench directed Trial Chamber I to establish whether Mr Gbagbo should continue to be detained or should be released, with or without conditions. Until this matter is decided, Gbagbo will remain in detention, they ruled.

The Presiding Judge Piotr Hofma?ski explained in open session that, according to the Appeals Chamber, Trial Chamber I should have considered the duration of time Gbagbo had spent in detention alongside the risks being reviewed. He said it should have determined whether, all factors being considered, the former leader’s detention continued to be reasonable.

Mr Piotr added that Trial Chamber I erred in taking into account the fact that a person denies responsibility for charges he faces, as a factor favouring detention. The lower chamber erred by considering Gbagbo’s advanced age as a factor that increased his desire to abscond, rather than one that may potentially mitigate the possibility of absconding, the court said.

The Appeals Chamber said these errors had materially affected the lower court’s decision.

In its decision, the Appeals Chamber emphasised that it was not suggesting what the outcome of the Trial Chamber’s review should be.

Gbagbo, the first ex-head of state to be tried by the ICC, had appealed a March decision that he must stay behind bars in a UN detention centre until the end of the legal process.

Presidential polls

Both Gbagbo, now 72, and his former militia leader Charles Ble Goude, 45, have pleaded not guilty to four charges of crimes against humanity including murder, rape, and persecution in five months of bloodshed that wrecked the Ivory Coast.

About 3,000 people died in the turmoil that swept Abidjan - once one of Africa’s most cosmopolitan cities - in the aftermath of the November 2010 presidential polls that Gbagbo lost to bitter rival Alassane Ouattara. His highly divisive trial at the tribunal in The Hague opened in January 2016, and is set to last three to four years.

ICC prosecutors accuse Gbagbo of trying to cling to power “by all means,” while his defence team has charged that Ouattara seized power by force with the help of former colonial master France.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit had urged the appeals chamber to “apply the law”.

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