I.Coast Gbagbo's legal team not effective, ICC hears

14th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Ex-Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo's lawyers Wednesday told the international war crimes court they did not have the means to be "effective" because they lacked legal aid and resources.

The former west African strongman's lawyers were back for a status hearing before the International Criminal Court, where Gbagbo faces four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and inhuman acts.

"The defence does not yet have the means to be effective," said Emmanuel Altit, whose client was not required to be in in the dock.

"We have not yet been able to start our investigations because of the absence of legal aid," Altit added, referring to financial help given to suspects the Hague-based court considered indigent, or without means.

"At the moment, we have no office, no computer, no access to the court's computer network and no means," Altit added, speaking in French.

Judge Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi ordered a hearing behind closed doors Thursday, in which Gbagbo's lawyers and the court will discuss the "defence team's organisation".

ICC spokesman Fadi el-Abdallah told AFP the registrar had not yet made a decision on Gbagbo's possible indigence.

The 66-year-old Gbagbo is the first former head of state to be brought before the court and made a first appearance last week following his transfer to The Hague on November 30 from northern Ivory Coast, where he had been held under house arrest since April.

He is suspected of crimes against humanity committed by his troops between December 16, 2010 and April 12, after his refusal to stand down in the wake of a presidential poll in November last year.

Gbagbo claims the polls were rigged.

His refusal to hand over power to his long-time rival and now Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara plunged the world's top cacao grower into deadly post-poll violence which the UN said cost some 3,000 lives.

Altit on Wednesday called on the prosecution to disclose as soon as possible any evidence in its possession.

For the prosecutor, Eric MacDonald said disclosure of evidence had already started and that 36 documents had been forwarded to Gbagbo's team.

Altit however retorted that the defence had not yet seen the prosecution's request for the arrest warrant or any evidence "allowing us to challenge the detention of President Gbagbo."

A confirmation of charges hearing -- to decide whether Gbagbo will eventually stand trial -- is to be held on June 18, 2012.

In Ivory Coast, Ouattara's party is headed for full parliamentary control Wednesday, media reports said.

Public television reported that Ouattara's Rally of Republicans (RDR) had so far won 123 of the 225 seats up for grabs in Sunday elections and that its main ally the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) had captured 93.

The Ivorian Popular Front, Gbagbo's party, boycotted the country's first parliamentary elections since 2000.

© 2011 AFP

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