Charles Blé Goudé gestures during a rally in Yopougon, Abidjan on December 29, 2010. 

©2010 Reuters

(Brussels) – Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin hearing evidence on Monday, September 29, 2014, to determine whether to confirm charges in the case against Charles Blé Goudé, a close ally of the former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. Earlier in 2014, Ivorian authorities surrendered Blé Goudé to the ICC on the basis of a December 2011 arrest warrant. He joins Gbagbo, who has been in ICC custody in The Hague since late 2011, and who awaits trial before the Hague-based court.

Gbagbo appointed Blé Goudé youth minister in December 2010, formalizing a longstanding relationship between Blé Goudé’s Young Patriots militia and Gbagbo’s security forces. The ICC alleges that, as part of Gbagbo’s “inner circle” between December 2010 and April 2011, Blé Goudé played a role in attacks against civilians considered to be supporters of President Alassane Ouattara. The court has charged Blé Goudé with four counts of crimes against humanity. 

“Blé Goudé in the dock should remind other senior officials who wield power in conflict that they cannot count on escaping justice,” said Param-Preet Singh, senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Victims of crimes by pro-Gbagbo forces are one step closer to learning the truth.”

Internationally recognized results proclaimed Ouattara the winner of the November 2010 election, but Gbagbo, his opponent, refused to step down as president. That caused a five-month crisis during which at least 3,000 people were killed and 150 women were raped, with attacks often carried out along political, ethnic, and religious lines. Gbagbo was arrested by pro-Ouattara forces in April 2011 and remained in Ivorian custody until his surrender to the ICC.

Blé Goudé fled from Côte d’Ivoire to Ghana in April 2011. In January 2013, Ghanaian authorities transferred Blé Goudé back to Côte d’Ivoire, where he remained in custody until his surrender to the ICC in March.

The ICC has brought charges against Gbagbo, his wife Simone, and Blé Goudé in relation to crimes committed in Côte d’Ivoire. Simone Gbagbo remains in Ivorian custody on genocide charges, among other crimes. In October 2013, the Ivorian government formally challenged the admissibility of her case before the ICC, contending the government has the intention and the capability to try her in Côte d’Ivoire. The ICC’s judges have given the Ivorian government until October 10, 2014, to provide more information about the national case against Simone Gbagbo.

However, the ICC has not pursued anyone from the forces that fought for President Ouattara, despite findings by both international and Ivorian commissions of inquiry that both sides committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Ivorian authorities have similarly not yet prosecuted any member of President Ouattara’s Republican Forces implicated in crimes related to the crisis. The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has repeatedly underscored her office’s impartiality and has said that investigations are ongoing.

“The ICC’s one-sided approach has been mirrored at the national level, leaving one side of the conflict beyond the reach of the law,” Singh said. “ICC action against the Ouattara side is critical to give victims much-needed access to justice.”