The ICC Appeals Chamber on 18th January 2019, decided that Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé remain in custody following their acquittal.
They will remain in custody pending the Appeals Chamber’s decision on the Prosecution’s Appeal against the decision of ICC Trial Chamber I in relation to the release of Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé following their acquittal. This hearing will commence on 1st February 2019.
The decision of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court is by majority. Three of the judges in the panel of five, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Presiding Judge, Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza and Judge Solomy Balungi Bossa decided that Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé shall remain in ICC custody; but Judge Howard Morrison and Judge Piotr Hofmański dissented, holding that they should be released immediately as decided by the trial court.
The three judges argued that in making a decision they cannot “preclude the realistic view of the potential consequences that the implementation of the decision under appeal may have in case of a successful appeal.” They further argued that the likelihood of a flight risk is real and that this could defeat the purpose of a successful appeal by the prosecution as Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé may not be available if the Appeals Chamber finds them guilty. The Appeals Chamber thus concluded as follows:
“In the circumstances of the present case, there are therefore strong reasons to move the Appeals Chamber to exercise its discretion and grant suspensive effect, so as to avoid that the implementation of the Impugned Decision pending appeal potentially defeats the appeal’s purpose because Mr Gbagbo and Mr Blé Goudé might no longer be available to be tried before the Court.
“Accordingly, the request for suspensive effect is granted.”
The Appeals Chamber added that it would expedite the appeal process in light of the urgency of the matter.
The argument of the dissenting judges is that, “If a person is acquitted, article 81(3)(c) of the Statute provides that he or she must be released immediately. This is an automatic consequence of an acquittal and no further decision or order of the Trial Chamber is required.”
They acknowledge that “Article 81(3)(c)(i) of the Statute affords the Trial Chamber the power to order, at the request of the Prosecutor, that the detention of an acquitted person be maintained, pending resolution of the appeal against the acquittal.” They however argued that if “the Trial Chamber rejects the Prosecutor’s request, this does not in any way modify the detention status of the acquitted person.” In this regard, they concluded that, “the statutory requirement under article 81(3)(c) to release the acquitted person immediately remains in effect.”
On 15 January 2019, Trial Chamber I comprising three judges, by majority, with one judge dissenting, acquitted Mr Laurent Gbagbo and Mr Charles Blé Goudé from all charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 and 2011.
The trial in this case started on 28 January 2016, for alleged charges of crimes against humanity (murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution) allegedly committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Côte d’Ivoire between 16 December 2010 and 12 April 2011. 231 hearing days were dedicated to the presentation of the Prosecutor’s evidence and 82 witnesses testified in court and through video link; thousands of documents were submitted into evidence, hundreds of motions, requests and decisions were filed.