#Acquitted but still prisoners: what will the next steps be for Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé?


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Three years after the start of their trial, the International Criminal Court acquitted the former Ivorian president and his minister on Tuesday, January 15, in a historic reversal. But the two men have not finished with international justice.

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“It may be in a sedan, running from the streets of The Hague,” enthused a close of Laurent Gbagbo, Tuesday, January 15 evening. Far from it. A few hours after his acquittal, the former president and his co-accused, Charles Blé Goudé, were back in their cell at the Scheveningen prison in The Hague, where they have been for seven and almost five years respectively.

Why ? What are the next judicial steps for the two former Ivorian leaders? While the procedures of the International Criminal Court are specific, sometimes unique and always complex, here are some answers.

On Tuesday, January 15, just after the judge Cuno Tarfusser had pronounced the acquittal and the release of Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé, he returned on the last point. The Court then decided to suspend the lifting of the two men’s detention until the following day, in order to give the Prosecutor time to consider his decision.

Hours of deliberations
Wednesday, January 16 in the morning, all the actors of this process thus found themselves. The prosecutor’s office requested that the two men be held in detention pending a decision on whether to appeal the acquittal.

In particular, he stressed that the charges against the accused were “unusually heavy” and that he considered that there was a risk that they would not appear at the next convocation of international justice.

A few hours later, after an urgent deliberation, the Court presided over by Cuno Tarfusser rejected these arguments, ordering the immediate release of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. A decision that the prosecutor has appealed, requesting that it be suspended the time that this appeal is studied.

The question is then forwarded to the Appeals Chamber, which in the first instance only decides whether or not the Prosecutor’s appeal is suspensive. After long hours of tight deliberations, Thursday until late in the evening and Friday morning, the decision falls Friday at midday. By a majority of three of the five judges, the suspensive character is recognized: Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé remain in prison.

In case of appeal, the new trial could be two years
The Appeals Chamber must now consider the merits of the Prosecutor’s appeal. She made an appointment to all parties for a new hearing on February 1 st . The prosecution will then present orally the arguments that, in its opinion, justify the continued detention of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, then the defense lawyers will respond. The decision should then fall quickly, in the day or in the following days.

If the issue of continued detention is asked, it is because the prosecutor can also appeal the acquittal decision. He must wait for the decision of the judges of the first chamber to be handed in writing – it has so far only been pronounced. This document, which should be several hundred pages, will only be sent in several months.

If the prosecutor wants to appeal, the court will first rule on the merits of his claim. Then, in the event of a positive response, the trial started in January 2016 will continue. Whereas before the acquittal, the prosecutor presented his 82 witnesses, hundreds of documents and hours of video, it will be up to the defense to call his witnesses. But according to several sources, given the number of preliminary steps, this hypothetical recovery would not take place before in two years.

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