By Clara Sanchiz
Sylvia Geraghty is the lead counsel of Simone Gbagbo at the ICC. This Irish lawyer, who so far has been discreet in the media, accepted to answer some questions which our sister site, Ivoire Justice, posed by email.
Q: How is Simone Gbagbo doing?
I have not met with her since January/February of this year. I have of course spoken with her in the meantime. If there are qualities that I would attribute to Mme Gbagbo, they would be courage and the firm belief that the truth will emerge and justice will be prevail, not necessarily for her sake but for the sake of the people of Côte d’Ivoire. It is this belief that keeps her going.
Q: What do you think of the result of the ‘assize’ trial in Abidjan and the 20-year prison sentence Simone Gbagbo was given?
Mme Gbagbo has a separate team of experienced Ivoirian lawyers who specialise and practice in that jurisdiction. In particular, she has two excellent lawyers, Maître Rodrigue Dadje and Maître Habiba Touré. I am not in any way involved in that jurisdiction. So I shall keep my own counsel on that matter.
Q: Is she in prison already?
If you mean, has she been deprived of her freedom? Yes, she has been deprived of her liberty and not only that, but she has been kept in isolation, since 11 April 2011, –already over 4 years now –originally in Odienné, as I have mentioned, and now in Abidjan.
Q: What is your opinion about the judgment delivered by the Appeals Chamber, confirming the admissibility of the case before the ICC?
This ruling was most disappointing for my client, her family and the fair-minded people of Côte d’Ivoire. Indeed, it must be disappointing for all sovereign states, especially those which, geo-politically, do not wield power or influence. I say this because, in the Pre-Trial Chamber decision, they may have detected a gradual erosion of their right and duty to try their own citizens within their own jurisdiction. To put this into context, let me explain the background to an important aspect of Mrs. Gbagbo’s case.
Firstly, both Mme Gbagbo and I – and, independently of us, Côte d’Ivoire – submitted that the investigation or prosecution of Mme Gbagbo was active because a number of interviews with Mme Gbagbo had already taken place; there had been intense searches for evidence; the matter had already been heard by the court in Abidjan on a procedural issue; alleged victims had come forward; domestic judges were involved and had ruled on certain procedural issues. In fact, we submitted that all the components of an investigation or prosecution had been or were active. Indeed, Mme Gbagbo would say that she was being aggressively pursued by the new government of Côte d’Ivoire through the judicial organs of the State. The term ‘victor’s justice’ most often came to mind.
Secondly, we submitted that given that the investigations or prosecution were/was active, the primary matter to be deliberated upon by the Pre-Trial Chamber was the issue of complementarity.
Q: [Mrs. Geraghty told the judges in January 2015 that at some point, she did not have local authorities’ permission to meet with her client in Côte d’Ivoire. We ask her about this, and she clarifies that she was eventually allowed to meet her client.]
Yes, I was [allowed to meet Simone Gbagbo]. In fact, I had already met her in Côte d’Ivoire on three occasions. Initially, there were some, shall we say, ‘teething’ problems. But with the efficient and diplomatic assistance of the ICC Registrar and the UN transport services, and it must be said, thanks to the goodwill shown by the Ivorian authorities on the ground, everything ran very smoothly thereafter.
You may not be aware that, not unlike Aung San Suu Kyi, my client was isolated and under house-arrest in Odienné for approximately 4 years. Odienné is a very remote area, in the far north-west of Côte d’Ivoire, almost 1,000 km from Abidjan. Access is difficult. Hence the need for the UN helicopter and plane services just to reach her. I have been twice to Odienné and more recently in Abidjan.
Q: Do you think prosecution of the Ouattara side would be in the interests of justice?
I believe that, in all such similar situations, justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done. Furthermore, it is an old legal maxim that may have some resonance in this instance that, justice delayed is justice denied.
Q: Did you follow the pre-trial stage of the Laurent Gbagbo and Blé Goudé case?
Yes, of course – I follow it avidly. I must follow it because, colloquially speaking, my client’s case is merely a ‘cut & paste’ of the case against Laurent Gbagbo.
This interview was originally published in French on our sister site, Ivoire Justice.
Lead image: Sylvia Geraghty at the ICC on 27 May 2015 (Photo: ICC)