Three to four years is a really long time for a lot to go wrong or right and as that is the length of time predicted for the trial of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to run its course and yield a verdict, the recent error by International Criminal Court is nothing to smile home about.
On Friday during the trial of Laurent Gbagbo for crimes against humanity (which he pleads not guilty to) the prosecutor mentioned the names of several witnesses in the case, assuming the microphones were off and the public gallery heard the names of these protected witnesses.
The International Criminal Court has apologized for the blunder with the presiding judge, Cuno Tarfusser stating that he did not know if it was “recklessness, superficiality or stupidity” that caused the mistake, he also admitted that he did not want to “speculate about something else”, which could be read as a resistance on his part towards speculation of a planned effort. The International Criminal Court has already ordered a formal inquiry.
Protecting witnesses is a key point of the promises made by the International Criminal Court, which goes to great lengths to protect their identities from the public, sometimes going as far as disguising their voices and pixellating their faces or moving them to new country’s with different identities. With Friday’s blunder however, the public gallery now have knowledge of the names and the recordings have since spread on social media and even made an appearance on YouTube. This case is the International Criminal Court’s highest profile case till date and its resolution will speak a lot about the court.
Just last week Mr. Gbagbo’s successor, Ivory Coast’s incumbent president, Alasanne Ouattara had declared that he won’t send any more Ivorians to the International Criminal Court as Ivory Coast now has an operational justice system. This after continuous cries by the Gbagbo camp of what they called “victor’s justice” in reference to the lack of charges against any Ouattara supporters, an accusation which Ouattara dismissed stating; “I don’t know what that means, ‘victor’s justice’. Justice is the same for everyone.”
He further stated that Ivorians wanted the truth to come out but future proceedings will take place in national courts; “Now we have a justice system that is operational and that has begun to judge everyone without exception. These trials will begin very shortly and I hope they will move faster than the ICC.”
We hope that this blunder will not prove detrimental to the case and the over 3000 people who paid the ultimate price for this power struggle will get the needed justice.