Ble Goude tells ICC judges he sought peace in I.Coast

2nd October 2014, Comments 0 comments

Charles Ble Goude, right-hand man of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, on Thursday told International Criminal Court judges that he is a believer in non-violence who did everything for peace.

The leader of the "Young Patriots", a fanatical group of Gbagbo supporters, faces four counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the bloody standoff that followed a 2010 presidential poll and left 3,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.

"I was expecting to be tried for crimes against humanity but I'm being tried for my relationship with president Gbagbo," the former "street general" told his confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC.

Wearing a dark suit, light blue tie and white shirt, the bespectacled Ble Goude told the court that there was no evidence against him.

"Where are the hate videos? I haven't seen any," he said.

"Where do I tell the Young Patriots to stand up and go and kill Ouattara supporters?" he said, referring to Gbagbo's election rival and current president Alassane Ouattara.

"I always did everything to bring Ivorians together," Ble Goude said.

Putting her case for a trial, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the court on Monday that men commanded by Ble Goude had murdered, raped and burned alive hundreds of people the post-electoral crisis in 2010-11 as part of a joint plan concocted with Gbagbo.

Ble Goude persuaded his militants that using violence against supporters of Ouattara, the declared winner of the November 2010 election, was "legitimate" and "a question of survival", Bensouda said.

But Ble Goude insisted that he had always been a believer in non-violence and that there had never been a joint plan to attack Ouattara's supporters.

"The only problem is that the prosecutor is trying to create militias, she's tyring to portray me as she would like me to be, but I am not like that," Ble Goude, 42, said.

"If there were a joint plan, I no neither who conceived it nor how carried it out, I don't even know what this plan's aims were," Ble Goude told the court.

The ICC confirmed in September that Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat at the polls after 10 years in power, will face trial on similar charges to Ble Goude. No date has yet been set.

Ble Goude was arrested in Ghana in January 2013 and extradited to the Ivory Coast, but authorities had been hesitant to send him to the world's only permanent war crimes court.

Parties in the trial, including a victims' representative, have until October 10 for further written submissions, after which judges have 60 days to decide on whether to proceed.

Amid accusations in Ivory Coast of victor's justice after the bloody post-election crisis, Bensouda has insisted that "justice will be done on all sides."

© 2014 AFP

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