Laurent Gbagbo’s Trial and the Indictment of the International Criminal Court
A Pan-African Victory
by Gnaka Lagoke
This study by Gnaka Lagoké of the International Criminal Court in general and the trial of Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC in particular, is a devastating critique of an institution hoped by many to herald an international rule of law. Critics of the ICC see it as a still-born attempt to address an absolutely laudable cry for justice, especially for civilians in wartime. The Court miscarried for a variety of reasons, all of them detailed by Lagoké in this book. A distinguished son of Africa, and not a Gbagbo partisan, he is clearly motivated by a deep sense of injustice, not least of which the crass political selectivity of the ICC as to which alleged human rights abuses it chose to pursue. There are far too few critiques of the ICC. Lagoké’s scholarship tears apart the ICC’s claim to be a project of international justice as nothing more than conceited hubris, revealing an institution that many now see as an instrument of western neo-colonialism. This is also the first detailed account of the eight-year long Gbagbo case and trial. It will be welcomed by anyone concerned about justice and especially by observers from the Global South.
Dr. David Hoile
Director of the Africa Research Centre in London
The International Criminal Court (ICC), created in 2002 to combat impunity, projects a sense of unfairness and stirs an unending debate. A trial before the court epitomizes the controversy surrounding it, perceived as a neocolonialist tool in the hands of the most powerful nations. This research critically examines the trial of the former president of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo. The two-decade crisis in Ivory Coast was a series of armed, diplomatic, and political conflicts in which human rights were violated by all sides. Military confrontation resumed as a result of an electoral stalemate that followed a controversial presidential election in the fall of 2010. The most atrocious human rights abuse was perpetrated at the end of March 2011 by the rebel forces backed by the French and the United Nations troops: the massacre of Duékoué. In one day, hundreds of Laurent Gbagbo’s followers were killed. However, the ICC undertook a selective prosecution against Gbagbo’s camp.
After a trial of eight years, Laurent Gbagbo was finally acquitted. The news of his unanticipated acquittal shocked the world. Later, that decision was overturned and transformed into freedom with binding and coercive conditions by the Appeals Chamber, which had succumbed to political pressure. The former president of Ivory Coast spent months of confinement in Belgium until the Appeals Chamber rebutted the prosecutor’s appeal against his release and confirmed his total acquittal and that of Blé Goudé. He eventually went back to Ivory Coast on June 17, 2021.
The trial of Laurent Gbagbo before the ICC, despite his acquittal (a tardy one), reflects a series of biases germane to international law and international justice, such as the victor’s justice stance, the conflict between national law and international law, the question of sovereignty, and the issue of lawfare. The trial of Laurent Gbagbo, which was the hallmark of the selective international justice system embedded in unfairness, led to a historical landmark with his shocking acquittal, which led to the indictment of the International Court, whose fate has thus been sealed before history.
Chapter 1 Anatomy of a conflict
Historical overview of Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast: independence and democracy
Transition to democracy and the Pandora’s Box
Ethnicity: Ivoirité versus Charter of the North
The 2010 electoral stalemate
The long-awaited election, the United Nations mission, the Electoral Commission, and the Constitutional Council
The 2010 electoral stalemate: who won the election?
The debate about military intervention
Coup d’état of 2002
Post-electoral violence 2010-2011
Post-electoral violence and Western military intervention
The neo-colonial aspect of the Ivorian crisis
Nonactivation of the traditional military agreement
Marcoussis Agreement and the legitimization of the rebellion by France
Operation Dignity and neocolonial military intervention
The involvement of France in the ICC prosecution of Laurent Gbagbo
The Pan-African dimension of the Ivory Coast crisis
The Ivory Coast crisis and the revival of Pan-Africanism
Dissenting African voices: prodemocracy versus anti-neocolonialists
Chapter 2 International justice and the International Criminal Court
Human rights: the journey of a concept
The journey of the idea of an international criminal court
The International Criminal Court in brief
International justice and unresolved issues
The question of sovereignty
The West and the ICC
The ICC, the West, and Africa: double-dealing and double standards
France, the ICC, and Ivory Coast
The ICC: African bias and dissenting voices
Chapter 3 The ICC and Ivory Coast: justice, peace, and neo-colonialism
Transfer of defendants to The Hague and joint trial
Mid-Trial Brief and Gbagbo’s Common Plan to remain in power
Incongruities of a Trial
Collusion of interests involving the ICC
Legal grounds for prosecution
Suspicious sequential prosecution rationale
Gbagbo’s transfer and adjournment of confirmation of charges
Rome Statute and discretionary powers of the prosecutor
One-sided prosecution and violation of Article
of the Rome Statute
Selective activation of the proprio motu powers by the prosecutor
Collectivization of crimes and alienation of ICC stakeholders
Crimes wrongly attributed to Gbagbo’s camp
ICC prosecution: justice vs. peace and reconciliation in Ivory Coast
Standoff concerning bail request
Global superstructure, the ICC, and imperialism
Laurent Gbagbo’s trial and the African collective memory
Chapter 4 Laurent Gbagbo’s trial, testimonies, acquittal, and the decision
Incriminating testimonies and incidents
Myth of homogeneity of victimhood
Laurent Gbagbo’s trial, acceptance, and assessment of the ICC
Acquittal: justice delayed but justice served or justice delayed but not served?
Reactions to acquittal
Chapter 5 The decision, the prosecutor’s appeal, and the Appeals Chamber’s judgement
The prosecutor’s appeal
Appeals Chamber judgement
Dr. Gnaka Lagoké is an Assistant Professor of History (world, African, and African American) and of Pan-Africana Studies at Lincoln University (PA). He is also a specialist and a political analyst in African and world politics on issues of international and African development, comparative politics, international justice, Pan-Africanism, and of Ubuntu Philosophy.
His contribution to the field of research is in line with his Pan-African vision. He has been an agent of justice, freedom and unity of Africa. In Ivory Coast, as a student, he was one of the student movement’s leaders that inspired and led the students in their claims for freedom and for a return to a multiparty society in 1990. Later, he worked as a political journalist for 8 years and contributed to the consolidation of democracy.
With friends and peers, he organized several Pan-African conferences in the USA and in other parts of the world, including the Thomas Sankara Annual Conference. He was in the extended organizing committee of the 60th Anniversary of the All African People’s Conference which was held at the University of Legon in Accra, December 5-8, 2018.
Dr. Gnaka Lagoké is promoting a new dispensation of Pan-Africanism which stands upon the Ubuntu Philosophy. On the topic of international criminal court, he has given media interviews, lectures, and conferences in universities, community gatherings, and on social media. He is an Ivorian national who is fluent in English, French, and Spanish. As a political analysist, he has appeared on several international news organizations such as Voice of America, Russia Today, HispanTV, Australian Broadcast Corporation, Democracy Now, Aljazeera, CCTV, TVC News, and IvoirTV.
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