Judges in the ICC’s Appeals Chamber ordered the release on bail of former Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, and his then Youth Minister, Charles Blé Goudé, this morning after a hearing in the Hague.
The two politicians are however barred from returning immediately to the Ivory Coast, averting a potential crisis in the West African state of 25 million people. They must stay in Belgium until an appeal lodged by the ICC Prosecutor against the stoppage of their trial last month (January 15th, 2019), even before they could open their defence, by Judges in the main ICC Chamber on grounds of “exceptionally weak prosecution evidence”.
The acquittal of Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé on a “no case to answer” basis has plunged the ICC – the International Criminal Court – into a crisis of legitimacy. In many ways, the Rome Statute (an international treaty) that set it up envisioned it as a sort of “forum of last resort” where exceptionally heinous crimes can be prosecuted when other mechanisms of individual criminal liability and accountability in the international system has failed. Its evidentiary procedures and standards are thus expected to be rigorous and nigh unimpeachable.