Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court has granted the prosecutor’s request to join the cases concerning Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé. What does this mean?
By Antoine Panaite
Q: What is a joint trial and how does it come about?
Article 64(5) of the Rome Statute allows for what is called a joinder. A Trial Chamber can make this decision if it believes that the charges facing two or more accused warrant a joint trial. So, trying Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé together amounts to trying them in a single trial. According to the ruling, it’s the first time a request for a joinder has been filed before an ICC Trial Chamber and also the first time it has accepted been accepted.
Q: Why was the prosecutor’s request accepted?
According to the prosecutor, the two cases were sufficiently similar to warrant a joint trial. The judges agreed with her. It’s likely that the case will start before the end of 2015.
The Chamber concluded that a joint trial is appropriate to ensure “a fair and expeditious trial”. The Chamber agreed with the prosecution that even though the cases are not completely identical, the charges against the former president and his former minister are sufficiently similar to be dealt with in a joint case. The judges noted that the conduct of Gbagbo and Blé Goudé are “closely linked” and that “largely the same evidence” has been dislosed.
According to the judges, “the joinder of the cases would serve the interest of justice by avoiding the duplication of a significant body of evidence that shall be presented to the Chamber, and by ensuring consistency in the presentation and assessment of the evidence. The Chamber also noted that the cases’ joinder would allow for a better use of the Court’s resources and would reduce the exposure of and hardship to witnesses, who otherwise may have to testify twice.”
Q: What do the lawyers of Gbagbo and Blé Goudé think?
Charles Blé Goudé’s lawyer said the prosecutor had not provided sufficient evidence to join the two cases. According to the defence counsel, the charges facing Charles Blé Goudé are significantly different than those facing the former president. In addition, the defence argued that even if the charges were sufficiently similar, a joint trial would seriously prejudice Blé Goudé. Blé Goudé’s defence team accused the prosecutor of having made this request only because “such a major change in the procedural framework would benefit the Office of the Prosecutor’s work in the two cases”.
Laurent Gbagbo’s defence counsel, Emmanuel Altit, argued that joining the charges “would obscure the arguments and make any discussion or clarity about responsibility impossible”.
Click here to find out more about the prosecutor’s charges against Charles Blé Goudé.
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