The Hague, Mar 31 (EFE) .- The International Criminal Court (ICC) today ratified the acquittal for lack of evidence of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, who had been accused of crimes against humanity during the 2010 post-election violence in his country.

An appeal chamber made up of five judges decided by majority to reject the appeal presented by the Prosecutor’s Office, putting an end to the first trial in this court in The Hague against a head of state.

The judges also confirmed the acquittal of the former Minister of Youth with Gbagbo Charles Blé Goudé, who had been accused of the same crimes.

Likewise, the ICC annulled the precautionary measures that weighed on both, such as the retention of their passports, and it remains to be seen whether the ex-presidents will now try to return to the Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo and Blé Goudé were present in the courtroom and the latter showed clear signs of satisfaction, showing his thumbs up, when Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji made the public reading of the decision.

The Prosecutor’s Office had requested a repetition of the trial and alleged formal defects after the acquittal in first instance, issued in January 2019, as it was made known orally in a quick decision and the magistrates took more than six months to give to know the details of their arguments in writing.

However, the appeals chamber concluded today that the court’s rules “do not establish a time limit” for making the full sentence known in writing, said Judge Eboe-Osuji, who added that, likewise, the delay in the Written sentence “cannot strictly affect the decision” to acquit former President Gbagbo and his former Minister of Youth.

The appellate judges also rejected that the court of first instance did not clearly establish the standard of rigor of the evidence that must be presented to convict them, another of the arguments of the Prosecutor’s Office to request a repetition of the trial.

The decision represents a setback for the chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, since under her mandate the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who had been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, was also released.

As they left the court, a score of supporters celebrated the decision with cheers and received Blé Goudé with chants, who came to greet them.

“I am an Ivorian and I will return home, but only if the government of my country gives me authorization,” the former minister told Efe, calling his acquittal “a victory.”

“It has been a very long trial, but life is like this and we have had to go through this. It is an opportunity to say that we are back ”, he added.

Blé Goudé’s lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops, hopes that the Ivorian authorities “accept the sentence and let them enter the country.”

He added that today’s decision shows that the prosecution’s evidence against both ex-presidents “was extremely weak” and that “no reasonable court could have ruled” against them.

The former president, for his part, left the court’s premises through a back door without making any statements, a judicial source confirmed to Efe.

The Gbagbo case had its origins in 2010, when the Ivorian Electoral Commission initially awarded his opponent and current president, Alassane Ouattara, the winner by a narrow margin.

However, the country’s Constitutional Council annulled the results in several northern provinces, more favorable to the then opposition leader, and proclaimed Gbagbo the winner, which led to an armed conflict that left some 3,000 dead and more than a million displaced.

The crisis ended with the arrest of Gbagbo in April 2011 at his residence in Abidjan, the country’s capital, by Ouattara’s men, who received the backing of the UN and French air forces.

Following his transfer and trial in The Hague, Gbagbo was acquitted in the first instance in January 2019 and has lived in Belgium ever since, although he remains an influential figure in the political life of Côte d’Ivoire.

(c) EFE Agency

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