Gbagbo forces 'shot unarmed ICoast protesters,' ICC told
The first witness in the trial of former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo gave a harrowing account Wednesday of being shot at by troops loyal to the ex-leader during an unarmed march after 2010 polls.
"I was dragging my leg and saw that the bone was sticking out," the first prosecution witness identified only as P-547 told the International Criminal Court.
His face pixellated on television screens and his voice disguised to protect his identity, the man told how he was shot in the leg during a demonstration on December 16, 2010.
He was among thousands of supporters of current Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara who marched on a television station in the economic capital of Abidjan following a disputed November, 2010 election.
Prosecutors say pro-Gbagbo forces killed at least 45 persons, raped at least 16 women and girls, and wounded at least 54 others on the day.
"We moved towards the (television station) bare-handed (unarmed). We could not get very close because people were shooting at us," said the witness, adding he was a long-time Ouattara supporter.
"I ran a bit, fell down, heard a gunshot and fell down again. I saw my leg had been hit," said the man, a Muslim, who worked at the time as a truck driver.
Ouattara is a Muslim from the north while Gbagbo is a Christian from southern Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer which was an oasis of stability in restive west Africa until 1999 when disgruntled soldiers staged a coup.
That was followed by a low-level civil war in 2002 pitting Gbagbo and Ouattara on opposite sides.
Gbagbo declared himself the winner of the 2010 elections, but major powers including France, the former colonial power, the United States and the United Nations backed Ouattara, who had snatched a narrow victory.
The row triggered a bitter standoff that saw Gbagbo holed up in the fortified presidential palace and Abidjan turned into a war zone.
Gbagbo and his former militia chief, Charles Ble Goude, deny four charges of crimes against humanity arising out of the violence which left some 3,000 dead.
- 'We want justice' -
At the demonstration, the witness told how soldiers arrived and threw injured protesters into the back of a truck.
The soldiers "asked me what I was doing...," said the card-carrying member of Ouattara's RDR party, speaking through an interpreter in his native Jula language.
"I answered: 'We are marching. We voted and we want justice'."
A soldier asked the witness: "What does Ouattara give you that you are willing to get killed for him?"
"I answered: 'It's not about Ouattara it's about the country, it's about peace'," he said.
The soldiers then started to beat him saying the officer had "told them to beat me to death."
The soldiers eventually left and asked "shall we kill him?" but were told "no, this guy is nearly dead, he won't last."
He was eventually given first aid by a Red Cross team and taken to hospital, P547 said.
Wednesday's testimony follows two days of opening statements by Gbagbo and Ble Goude's defence teams.
Gbagbo's lawyers Monday accused Ouattara of taking power by force in Ivory Coast, aided by former colonial power France.
Gbagbo was eventually arrested in April 2011 and transferred to the ICC's detention unit in November that year, while Ble Goude was handed over to the court in March 2014.
© 2016 AFP