The initial appearance of Laurent Gbagbo at the ICC took place yesterday.
Here are the highlights of the 28-minutes session.
First, the audience is just the first step of the (lengthy) process. The aim of the meeting was to go over three points:
– To ensure that the person who is the subject of the arrest warrant -Laurent Gbagbo- is informed of the alleged crimes.
– To make sure he has been informed of his rights as guaranteed by the statutes.
– To set a date on which the court intends to hold a hearing on the confirmation of charges.
It was also the first occasion for Laurent Gbagbo to speak publicly since the crisis. He previously made a brief appearance on TV when Desmond Tutu and Koffi Annan visited him in Korhogo, but he could not express himself due to the context at that time.
The former President appeared thinner and somewhat physically and mentally weakened by the 7-months house arrest. He took the opportunity to comment on the conditions of his arrest and of his detention. He understandably complained about the mistreatment of his son and his personal doctor, and the death of the former Interior Minister. Surprisingly, no mention of his wife Simone.
He claimed he was treated well but suffered from the lack of freedom, and movement. He also complained about the difficulty he had to access his lawyers.
Although cooperative with the tribunal, and determined to defend his cause, his message was only mildly political. He barely mentioned the fraud during the elections, or the seizure of power by Ouattara. In contrast, he openly criticized French intervention, the bombing of the Presidential Residence for 11 days, the “50 French Army tanks” surrounding his house.
The confirmation of charges was set to June 18th 2012. This should give enough time to both parties to prepare their argument.