Former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo has been acquitted of all charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
The first sitting president to be transferred to The Hague. He’s been there since 2011 on the accusation that he incited the 2010 post-election violence in the Ivory Coast after he lost an election run-off.
After over 8 years in The Hague, ICC judges have thrown out the case against Laurent Gbagbo even before the end of the trial.
ICC Presiding Judge, Cuno Tarfusser says, “The Chamber by majority hereby decides that the prosecutor has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standards as foreseen in article 66 of the Rome Statute.”
It means that the former Ivorian president and his co-defendant, youth leader Charles Ble Goude will be freed following an appeal by the prosecution.
They’ve always denied charges against them of rape, murder, attempted murder and persecution.
The case has been thrown out because ICC judges say the prosecution didn’t provide enough evidence to prove the speeches and conduct of these two men incited the post-election violence which left 3000 people dead.
Laurent Gbagbo’s case has been ongoing for the past 8 years after he was arrested by UN forces in a compound controlled by his political rival and incumbent President Alassane Ouattara.
Mr Gbagbo is 73 years old now but his release might see him return to political life in the Ivory Coast.
And he might be tempted to do so by the huge support he’s continued to enjoy throughout the trial with hundreds regularly turning out in The Hague during his appearances.
It’s another massive blow for the ICC prosecutor – the case against Kenyan President Kenyatta was dropped and former DRC vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba had his conviction overturned.
And this acquittal is another embarrassment.
Director of No Peace Without Justice, Niccolo Figa-Talamanca says, “It’s not just that the accused himself was not responsible for the actions, for the crimes committed, but also that the prosecutor had not brought sufficient evidence of systematicity and pattern to demonstrate that the events actually constituted crimes against humanity.”
For those who’ve travelled from Africa to The Hague to testify against Mr Gbagbo, it will be hard for the ICC to recover its credibility in their eyes.
But ICC judges will insist this acquittal is proof that the court is impartial, independent and judges on evidence.