Side Event – “The Gbagbo-Blé Goudé and Jean-Pierre Bemba trials: crossviews and possible impacts on Côte d’Ivoire, the DRC and the CAR”

(co-hosted by the Ivorian Observatory for Human Rights and the Institute for Security Studies)

Overview by Sally Eshun, Intern PILPG NL


  • A very insightful event on the relationship between the ICC and the countries in which it has been most active in the past years. 

  • The panelists assessed and compared the Gbagbo & Blé Goudé case and the Bemba case, considering the latter’s acquittal in June 2018. They shed light on the impact the two cases and the general work of the ICC has on the local populations in the DRC, CAR and Côte d’Ivoire. 

As an introduction, Alan Ngari, researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), pointed out the similarities in both cases and raised the concern that the outcome in the Blé Goudé case might be the same as in the Bemba case. He said that the outcome which resulted from the errors of the Appeals Chamber in the Bemba case on the issue of admissibility with respect to some of the charges, have the potential to be repeated in the Blé Goudé case now that the defence counsel has submitted the “no case to answer” motion. Mr. Ngari put emphasis on the impact the ruling can have on reparative justice for victims in Côte d’Ivoire. With the Bemba experience in mind, he pointed out that the potential for them to be let down is great due to the fact that there is no reparations available when a case is acquitted. 

Hyacinthe Gbiegba, who discussed the socio-political impact of the Bemba acquittal, tackled the topic of reparations of victims in the Central African Republic (CAR). He mentioned that there have been national efforts to provide reparations to the victims together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Concerning the political consequences of the Bemba acquittal, it was mentioned that victims in the CAR expected that Bemba would be sentenced and were surprised by his acquittal. Victims did not understand the acquittal when he was simultaneously sentenced for witness tampering. According to Mr. Gbiegba, victims were wondering whether the judges’ decision was politically motivated or whether they did not have all the information. He noted that the acquittal harmed the ICC’s reputation in the CAR, which is unfortunate keeping in mind the ongoing conflict. 

Paolina Massidda, the legal representative for the victims in the Blé Goudé case, commented on how in both cases justice for vicitms is lacking. Victims in CAR were very committed to the case, as seen by the high number of victims participating in the trial. Mr. Massidda noted that the people of Côte d’Ivoire already feel let down by the Ivorian government, so the reputation of the Court is closely connected to the outcome of the case. Mr. Massidda closed by stating that he hopes that command responsibility under Article 28 of the Rome Statute will be interpreted differently under the circumstances of the Blé Goudé case as opposed to the Appeals Chamber not seeing a sufficient link between the crimes committed and Bemba’s position as a commander in his acquittal.

The consensus among the panellists was the ICC’s need to take a victims-centred approach, also when it comes to outreach in the respective countries for the Court’s own sake and credibility.