Why is the International Criminal Court stepping out of Africa and into Georgia?

(Photo: Osinform Information agency)

Georgian soldiers leaving South Ossetia during the 2008 war (Photo: Osinform Information agency)

After three months of deliberations, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have finally approved the opening of an official investigation into the 2008 war in Georgia. Prosecutors will focus on the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from the breakaway region of South Ossetia, as well as an attack by Georgian forces on a Russian peacekeeping base. The ICC’s intervention into the conflict between Georgia, Russia and Moscow-backed belligerents in South Ossetia represents the court’s first investigation into a situation outside the African continent. It also marks the first time that the alleged crimes of a major power, Russia, will be placed under official investigation by the court’s prosecutors.

This raises a number of questions: Why did the court decide to open an investigation outside Africa now? Who will be targeted for prosecution? And what could be the fallout for the states involved in the 2008 war?

The ICC continues to suffer from the widespread perception that it is biased against African states. Prior to its intervention in Georgia, every official investigation launched by the court was in Africa. Despite the fact that African states themselves have requested the majority of these interventions, African leaders have labeled the ICC a “race hunting” institution and a “tool of Western imperialism.” African states and the African Union have consistently — and increasingly — threatened to withdraw from the court. Even its most traditionally staunch supporters, like South Africa, are reconsidering their relationship with the ICC. It may be tempting to conclude that the ICC opened an official investigation in Georgia to combat perceptions that it is biased against Africa. That, however, would be wrong.

Only the most cynical observer would suggest that the ICC identified Georgia as its road out of Africa. Not only would such a strategy be too risky and brazen for a generally cautious court and a prosecutor, but it would also make very little sense given the timeline of decisions made at the court. As Alex Whiting, a former member of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor and currently a professor of practice at Harvard Law School, writes: “If the Prosecutor simply wanted to use the Georgia case to get out of Africa or to take on a major power, she could have done so years ago. … A prosecution strategy that simply tried to respond to criticisms from the outside, many of which are politically motivated, would be doomed to fail.” So why Georgia — and why now?

The decision to intervene in Georgia is likely due to a confluence of factors. First, the court had the 2008 war under preliminary examination for nearly half a decade. Had Georgia demonstrated that it was willing to investigate, and potentially prosecute, the crimes itself, it could have foreclosed any ICC intervention. However, when Tbilisi ended its investigations into the alleged crimes perpetrated in 2008, it became untenable for the ICC to simply keep those crimes under examination indefinitely. Second, for an institution that seeks to command relevancy in international politics, it certainly does not hurt that there is a broader narrative vilifying Moscow and its role in the region. Whether or not the court targets Russian officials, investigating Russian conduct captures that broader, if not always helpful, international narrative condemning Russian aggression. Continue reading

Posted in Georgia, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Justice, Russia, South Ossetia | 1 Comment

Spies at the International Criminal Court?

(Image: Julian Hibbard)

(Image: Julian Hibbard)

Is international criminal justice worth spying on? Do states invest in penetrating the halls of international criminal tribunals with their intelligence officers? While these aren’t exactly questions that one typically encounters, a recent article by Julian Borger sheds light on how one intelligence agency, Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB), infiltrated the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in order to protect Ratko Mladić, a Bosnian Serb general accused of genocide and war crimes who was a fugitive of the ICTY for a remarkable fourteen years.

According to Borger, Russia viewed Mladić as a former ally unjustly hunted by Western states seeking to expand their influence in Serbia, a historically close ally of Moscow’s. At the same time, Russia feared that Mladić’s arrest or surrender would lead to embarrassing revelations about Moscow’s support for the Republika Srpska during Mladić’s campaign of ethnic cleansing. Borger describes how Miodrag Rakić, the lead investigator in the hunt for Mladić, was consistently frustrated in his efforts. Anyone who could potentially cooperate in the search for the former Bosnian Serb general was intimidated by FSB agents. And then this bombshell:

Rakić also felt the unmistakable presence of the FSB looking over his shoulder. In 2008, he and a colleague made a clandestine trip to the Hague tribunal to discuss the Mladić case. They flew a roundabout route and Dutch protection officers drove them straight into the tribunal’s underground car park. On his return, however, Rakić received a visit from one of Mladić’s supporters in the security services, warning him that his family would be in peril if he continued to cooperate with the court. Lest there be any doubt over the seriousness of the threat, he recited details of Rakić’s young son’s daily routine.

Shocked at the threat, Rakić angrily denied he was collaborating with the court, insisting he had never even been to The Hague. Without a word, the visitor took a piece of paper and drew a diagram of a conference table. Then he wrote out the name of every person who had attended his meeting in The Hague, indicating precisely where each of them had been sitting. Rakić described it as the most chilling moment of his life. From that moment on, until his death from cancer in 2014, he travelled with a two-man protection team.

There was little doubt in his mind that only the FSB had the sophistication to penetrate the Hague Tribunal so thoroughly.

This raises the question: if spies could infiltrate the ICTY, what about the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

The issue of spying has been raised on a handful occasions at the ICC. In Darfur, where no ICC official has ever stepped foot, the Court’s intervention into the alleged genocide has been met with regular accusations by the Sudanese government that civil society organizations and human rights advocates are “spying” for the Court. More recently, during the 2011 Libyan civil war, the ICC indicted Abdullah al-Senussi, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s notorious “spy chief”. Months later, four members of the Court’s staff were detained and accused of espionage after attempting to meet and consult with Gaddafi’s son and Senussi’s fellow ICC-indictee, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. According to Benjamin Dürr, there have also been allegations that some states, including Germany, have spied on the ICC. Continue reading

Posted in ICTY, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Russia | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Please Stop Bean-Counting Syrian refugees

For months, the international community has been clamouring to find an appropriate response to address the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing violence and terror in Syria. But much of the debate about what states can and should do has been framed as a ‘numbers game’, as a matter of the volume of refugees any given state accepts. In this article, a version of which was first published at Open Canada, I argue that our moral responsibility to refugees cannot solely be measured by the number we take in. The piece focuses on the current debate in Canada but, hopefully, will also resonate with readers in communities facing similar situations.

A Syrian man holds his son at a refugee camp (Photo: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

A Syrian man holds his son at a refugee camp (Photo: Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press

Numbers have power. They determine both politics and policies. We are comforted when we are told that hundreds of billions of dollars will go towards combating climate change — even if few know what that amount of money actually buys. We are shocked and appalled when we hear that 300,000 people, and counting, have perished during the Syrian civil war. We are concerned when confronted with the disparity in wealth and opportunity between the wealthiest one percent and the other 99 percent.

Numbers underpin the decisions we make, the ideas we propagate and the rationales we employ to support both. But numbers don’t always add up. And in some instances, they obfuscate more than they elucidate. The current debate over the acceptance of Syrian refugees to Canada is a case in point.

Since the harrowing images of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body on a Turkish beach captured the world’s attention, there has been a welcome, if belated, debate about what Canada can do to help the plight of refugees fleeing violence and atrocity in Syria. In part because this debate emerged so powerfully in the midst of last October’s federal election, politicians distilled it into a numbers game. The Conservatives, then under Stephen Harper, promised to bring in and settle 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016. The Liberals, led by now-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, countered that they would accommodate 25,000 refugees from the region by the end of 2015. The question of who would promise to do the most for Syrian refugees thus became a matter of who would offer to accept the most Syrian refugees. But these are not one and the same.

The current Liberal government came under fire for being over-confident, perhaps even naive, in declaring that it could settle 25,000 refugees within three months of assuming power. Subsequently, it revised its target to 10,000 by Dec. 31, 2015, extending the deadline for 25,000 until March.

Now, well into the New Year, the government has reached approximately 25 percent of its target. Are they to blame? Have they failed? Some would certainly claim so. NDP MP Jenny Kwan declared that not only did Immigration Minister John McCallum “irrefutably fail to live up to the promise Liberals made to Canadians in the last election, but he even failed to meet his own lowered expectations.” In a recent op-ed, columnist John Ibbitson has added that, based on the numbers, “the Conservative goal is looking more realistic than what the Liberals promised.”

There is no doubt that the government should be held to account for the promises it makes and breaks. But basing our judgment of appropriate political and moral action to help Syrian refugees should not be a numbers game. The political challenge we face isn’t to ‘fit in’ as many refugees as the government promises in as short a period of time as possible. Bean-counting people and families fleeing terror cannot meet the moral test we are confronting. To do so misses the point: that what we need is a nation-wide conversation about how we can create and maintain a coherent, comprehensive and, above all, compassionate program that not only brings refugees, along with their immense energy and courage, into the country, but ensures that they are adequately supported once they arrive.

Such a program could also serve as an example for how to handle future refugee crises, or, better yet, lead into a debate around the effectiveness of Canada’s process on the whole, considering the many refugees worldwide who are waiting in camps or have been put on years-long waiting lists to be provided entry into Canada. Unless there is a declared global emergency or politically driven attention on their plight, those others are clearly not being served under our current system.

Continue reading

Posted in Canada, Refugees, Syria | 3 Comments

Mass Atrocity Monday, 2/1/2016

Greetings, Justice in Conflict readers.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a political scientist and former human rights lawyer, currently based at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. I also run the blog Wronging Rights. I spend most of my time writing and thinking about the dynamics of mass atrocities and the politics of justice for serious international crimes. For obvious reasons, the rest of my time is spent consuming a steady diet of brightly-colored, loosely-plotted TV comedies, bourbon, and chocolate.

I’ll be here on the first Monday of every month with the details of a lesser-known atrocity and any efforts to bring those responsible to justice. This feature, a.k.a. Mass Atrocity Monday, originally ran on Wronging Rights in 2014 as a companion piece to the dataset of atrocities I coded for my PhD dissertation. Now I’m revisiting that dataset and Mass Atrocity Mondays as I turn the dissertation into a book. (It’s called Just Enough: The Politics of Accountability for Mass Atrocities. Look for it in bookstores any year now.)

In general, I’ll be covering events from the post-WWII era, because that’s when the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators of atrocities became A Thing. But I reserve the right to make an occasional side trip into Ye Olde Historical Carnage. So, buckle up.

Today’s atrocity is the 2005 massacre in Andijan, Uzbekistan.

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan. By Ernests Dinka, Saeimas Kanceleja [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Islam Karimov, President of Uzbekistan.
Photo credit: Ernests Dinka, Saeimas Kanceleja via Wikimedia Commons

Uzbekistan’s president, Islam Karimov, has been in office since before the country declared its independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991. He’s kept a tight grip on power by repressing civil society, censoring the independent media, and occasionally boiling his opponents to death. Harsh anti-Islamist policies have routinized targeting and harassment of Uzbekistan’s Muslim community. After the 9/11 attacks, Karimov’s regime benefited from the opportunity to recast these policies as part of the Global War on Terror, in part because of Uzbekistan’s role as a critical partner in the U.S.’s campaign in Afghanistan. Human rights groups say that more than ten thousand Uzbek Muslims have been jailed since 2002, many of them facing torture during their detention.

In May of 2005, the arrest and trial of 23 local businessmen sparked a conflagration in the eastern city of Andijan. The men were accused of membership in the Islamist organization, Akramiya. At the time, observers suggested that this was pretext, and that the men were simply being targeted for a refusal to pay bribes. When their verdict was postponed, armed supporters staged a prison break the night of May 12 and seized control of a nearby government building. Emboldened by their actions, crowds of protestors gathered nearby calling for an end to injustice. But instead of meeting their demands, the government responded with deadly force.

According to eyewitness testimony, Karimov’s forces opened fire on the protestors with no warning. Unarmed civilians were killed as they attempted to flee. In the aftermath, the death toll was hotly contested. Rumors spread about covert military operations to remove the bodies and mass graves outside of town. Eventually, the Uzbek government acknowledged the deaths of 187 people, most of whom were “terrorists”. Human rights groups put the total much higher. On the 10 year anniversary of the massacre, Human Rights Watch reiterated its belief that hundreds of unarmed civilians were killed by their government that day.

Some of the Andijan protesters escaped across the border into Kyrgyzstan. For those who remained, the situation was precarious. In the aftermath of the massacre, Karimov launched a vicious crackdown against anyone who might threaten his stranglehold on power. Journalists who had covered the events at Andijan were forced to flee, and almost every foreign NGO found itself expelled from the country. While members of the international community called for an independent investigation into the massacre, the government pursued criminal charges against those suspected of involvement in the “uprising”, and convened a window-dressing parliamentary commission to validate the official narrative of an attempted Islamist revolution.

In the months following the massacre, the Karimov regime’s relationship with the West soured. Uzbekistan lost millions of dollars in aid and arms sales, and, angry about Western interference, ended its air-base agreement with the U.S. But the estrangement didn’t last. The EU lifted its arms embargo in 2009, the U.S. in 2012. And just in time for the Andijan massacre’s 10 year anniversary last May, the U.S. announced a new five-year plan for military cooperation with Uzbekistan.

In retrospect, Karimov’s approach of brutal repressing civil society while waiting for international attention to wane looks smart. With domestic demand for justice suppressed, and international demand subordinated to strategic concerns, for now, at least, he’s gotten away with murder.

Posted in Mass Atrocity Monday, Uzbekistan | Tagged | 2 Comments

Mattresses and “Democratic Bombs”: Charles Blé Goudé in his Own Words

Sophie T. Rosenberg joins JiC once again for her analysis of ICC-indictee Charles Blé Goudé’s recently published book. For her previous post on Laurent Gbagbo’s book, please see here.

Charles Blé Goudé consults his defence counsel at the International Criminal Court (Photo: ICC)

Charles Blé Goudé consults his defence counsel at the International Criminal Court (Photo: ICC)

At the end of his book, which very few people even know about, Charles Blé Goudé rejects all the accusations made against him. “No, I am not anti-French. No, I am not a militia leader. No, I am not the alleged assassin of northerners. No, I am not a supporter of violence!”

Though his trial at the ICC is set to begin, Blé Goudé has already made his defence. Indeed, after fleeing Côte d’Ivoire in April 2011 at the peak of post-election violence, the former leader of the political youth movement “Young Patriots” wrote a book from exile entitled Traquenard Electoral (The Electoral Trap).

Published in December 2011, the book is framed as a plea of innocence to a fictional judge. Blé Goudé, whose charisma and magnetism easily rallied huge crowds, was already subject to an arrest warrant issued by Côte d’Ivoire. But it would be nearly two years until the ICC would unseal an arrest warrant against him in September 2013.

He is now being tried for crimes against humanity in a joint trial with ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, whom Blé Goudé refers to in his book as his political mentor and even a father figure. Following the 2010 disputed elections, Gbagbo appointed Blé Goudé as Minister of Youth, though his government was not recognised internationally. Their proximity is key to the trial, as the prosecution aims to establish that Blé Goudé held a crucial role in Gbagbo’s “inner circle” and served as the link to the pro-Gbagbo youth militias during the 2010-2011 crisis.

The situation in Côte d’Ivoire has calmed down since Blé Goudé galvanized crowds and ignited feelings of vengeance in politicized youth. But, in a tug of war with the past, his defence at the ICC could bring back to the fore those tense times for Ivoirians following the trial.

So, besides being a consultant of political communication, as he introduced himself to the ICC judges, how does Blé Goudé want to be seen and how does he view the court?

A Pacifist on Trial?

In his book, Blé Goudé seeks to counter the perception of himself as a demagogue who incites youth to xenophobic violence. He wants to be seen, instead, as a non-violent resistance fighter in a two-front struggle. For him, he peacefully defended his country against an armed revolt and French neo-colonialism – but ended up as a victim of international criminal law, governed not by fairness but by power.

Though a clearly self-serving and biased portrait – and one that I do not endorse – Blé Goudé’s crafted persona is a pacifist who models himself after Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. but who has the misfortune of living in the era of the ICC.

A Life-Long Youth Leader

Now in his forties, Charles Blé Goudé has been a youth leader for quite a long time. Having served as Secretary-General of the infamous student union, Federation of Students and School Pupils of Côte d’Ivoire (FESCI), he was also involved in creating and leading several political youth movements, including the Alliance of Youth Patriots for National Survival (AJPSN), or “Jeunes Patriotes”.

When, in September 2002 a coup took place that triggered a long civil war, Blé Goudé was in England studying at the University of Manchester. “Sacrificing my scholarship and the occidental freshness” (possibly a jab at British weather?), Blé Goudé returned to Côte d’Ivoire to “defend my land” against the perceived aggression by the armed group Forces Nouvelles.

Throughout the 2002-2011 conflict, President Gbagbo benefitted from Blé Goudé’s talent to mobilise pro-Gbagbo youth. It isn’t difficult to understand how he became known as the “Street General.”

Placed under UN sanctions in 2006, Blé Goudé has been accused of inciting violence against foreigners (namely the French) and those deemed to be non-Ivoirians, primarily those with links to neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso who were viewed as being pro-Ouattara. Blé Goudé’s ICC trial concerns such targeted attacks against opposition supporters by pro-Gbagbo youth, who were allegedly acting under his instructions during the 2010-2011 crisis.    Continue reading

Posted in Guest Posts, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast and the ICC | Tagged | Leave a comment

On the Rebirth of Hybrid Tribunals

Judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon look over a model of the area of Beirut where former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated (Photo: STL)

Judges at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon look over a model of the area of Beirut where former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated (Photo: STL)

International criminal justice is an emerging marketplace. It has a diversity of stakeholders, different ‘business’ models, and is based, like all markets, on supply and demand — although demand clearly and vastly outstrips supply. Something of a political economy of international criminal justice is developing and a growing number of observers and scholars are concluding that no tribunal type can or should have a monopoly over the provision of international accountability.

In this context, I have recently written about renewed interest of hybrid international criminal tribunals. In broad terms, such tribunals (as well as ad hoc courts more generally) have been justified on the basis that they can act as stop-gaps for the short-comings of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Because the ICC can’t be everywhere it is needed, we need to explore alternatives. This is undoubtedly true. But in thinking through a marketplace of international criminal justice, is it useful to create a pecking-order of tribunal types that views the ICC as its apex and other courts as second best options? I’m less and less convinced.

There is no cookie-cutter concept of what a hybrid tribunal should look like. As Sarah Williams has written:

While there is no definition, such tribunals tend to apply a mix of national and international law (both procedural and substantive) and feature a blend of international and national elements, in particular international and national judges and personnel. While there is some disagreement as to those institutions that are properly considered hybrid or internationalized, the following tribunals are generally included in this category: the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Timor Leste (SPSC), the International Judges and Prosecutors Program in Kosovo (IJPP, or Regulation 64 Panels), the War Crimes Chamber in the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (WCC), and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

The above excerpt and list of hybrid tribunals was published in April 2014. The most recently created tribunal Williams lists is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, established in 2009 to prosecute those responsible for the terrorist attack in Beirut that killed then Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and twenty-two others.

Fast-forward just two years from Williams’ observations and the proof of the hybrid tribunals’ rebirth is in the pudding. According to Beth Van Schaack, a professor of international law at Santa Clara and a former Deputy U.S. Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes Issues,

the international community in 2015 considered new hybrid accountability mechanisms for a range of historical and current atrocity situations, including Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia, Sri Lanka, Chad, Kosovo, and even the July 2014 downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17 over rebel-controlled Ukraine.

In other words, the international community considered creating eight additional hybrid tribunals. If all came to fruition, the number of hybrid tribunals established to date would rise by 133%. But why this sudden surge of interest in hybrid tribunals? Continue reading

Posted in Hybrid Tribunals, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Kosovo, Kosovo Relocated Specialist Judicial Institution (KRSJI) | Tagged | 5 Comments

A Portrait from The Hague: All You Need to Know About What Laurent Gbagbo Wants You to Know

Not all ICC indictees spend their days awaiting trial by writing self-serving biographies. But that is exactly what Laurent Gbagbo, the former President of  Côte d’Ivoire, has done. Sophie T. Rosenberg joins JiC for this  post on Gbagbo’s recently published book. Sophie is a PhD candidate and Gates Cambridge Scholar at Cambridge University, conducting research on the politics of international justice in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.

Laurent Gbagbo (Photo: ICC)

Laurent Gbagbo (Photo: ICC)

Laurent Gbagbo, president of Côte d’Ivoire between 2000 and 2010, holds the dubious honour of being the first former head of state to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yet, according to interviews with him by French journalist François Mattei, Gbagbo appears confident that his trial for crimes against humanity committed during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis could finally shed light on what really happened.

Published in 2014, over two years after Gbagbo’s transfer to The Hague, For Truth and Justice: Revelations on a French Scandal features extensive passages from the journalist’s conversations with Gbagbo over several years, during which the former president seeks to set the record straight – according to him. Though later changed, the book’s first version even listed Gbagbo as a co-author.

Since Gbagbo retains strong influence and many dedicated followers in Côte d’Ivoire, understanding his viewpoint (albeit a clearly biased one) is crucial for grasping the trial’s significance for both pro-Gbagbo and pro-Ouattara Ivoirians. Without endorsing or challenging the account, in this post I want to sketch out the self-portrait that Gbagbo would like his readers to see. So, beyond a defendant accused of international crimes, how does Laurent Gbagbo want to be seen and how does he view his trial at the ICC?

More than just Defendant – A Defender

First, Gbagbo wants to distance himself from the portrait that was painted of him, one of a power-hungry dictator and tyrant whose refusal to cede power to the 2010 election’s winner triggered a period of violent unrest that claimed the lives of over 3,000 people. Rather, Gbagbo wants to be seen as the lawful, democratic leader whose efforts to reconcile the country were stunted by what he sees as disingenuous rebels who enjoyed support from France, the former colonial power, and who now govern the country.

Second, in his mind, he is a rare African leader who stood up to France but was never anti-French. He argues that his transfer to The Hague is the dénouement of a political contest that had already been “fixed” by France. His trial is thus just another episode in a perennially fraught relationship between Gbagbo and Côte d’Ivoire’s former colonial rulers. But, for a politician as experienced and eloquent as Gbagbo, the defendant’s seat at the ICC provides him a political pulpit from which he’d like the truth, or at least his truth, of the 2010-2011 crisis to come to light.

A Man of Peace & Democracy  

In his interviews from jail, sensing he is the victim of a campaign of character assassination, Gbagbo throws an oft-repeated accusation at the ICC: that his detention is purely political. According to Gbagbo, his record shows that he has always been committed to peace and democracy. For example, Gbagbo writes that he issued a general amnesty after the 2002 attempted coup as a “message of peace” and “always chose to speak to everyone”. He insists that he made many concessions during negotiations with “the rebels” throughout the 2002-2010 civil war, even accepting the leader of the rebellion, Guillaume Soro, as his Prime Minister in 2007.

He equally challenges the accusation that he ignored the will of the people, maintaining instead that he has always been a pro-democracy activist, even going to jail for his views. In 1992, after participating in a political demonstration promoting multi-partyism, Gbagbo was detained for six months on the orders of none other than then-Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. Once he became president in 2000, Gbagbo voided an international arrest warrant – purportedly in the spirit of democracy – that had previously been issued against Ouattara. But in 2011, in bitter irony for Gbagbo, he found himself behind bars on the orders of President Ouattara. Though it is clearly up for debate, the imagery of Ouattara sending Gbagbo to jail twice is salient in the Ivoirian political consciousness. For many, Gbagbo’s political activism has landed him, yet again, in jail. And this time, it’s “chez les blancs” (“with the whites”), as some Ivoirians have described it to me.

Rocking the Boat isn’t easy

Many people know there is a tunnel in Abidjan, “the most famous tunnel on the continent”, that links the residences of the Ivoirian president and the French ambassador. Pointing to the tunnel as a symbol of undue French influence, Gbagbo argues that he vociferously defended Côte d’Ivoire’s sovereignty against French policies that kept his country in an anachronistic cage more reminiscent of the colonial era than of the 21st century. Against neo-colonialism, Gbagbo challenged the use of the West African franc (which is pegged to the Euro) as the national currency, the continued presence of the French army in the country, and the heavy French influence over the Ivoirian economy. Continue reading

Posted in Guest Posts, International Criminal Court (ICC), International Criminal Justice, Ivory Coast / Côte d'Ivoire, Ivory Coast and the ICC, Justice, Laurent Gbagbo | Tagged | 2 Comments