Côte d’Ivoire Dodging its ICC Obligations
March 9, 2014
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Even with the recent news of Congolese warlord Germain Katanga’s conviction in The Hague, the relationship between the ICC and some of its member states continue to be strained. Earlier this week, the ICC turned down a request by the Ivorian government to postpone its surrender of Charles Blé Goudé, a staunch ally of former President Laurent Gbagbo and longtime head of a violent, pro-Gbagbo militant group. Following the devastating crisis in 2011, President Ouattara immediately and willingly surrendered Gbagbo into the custody of The Hague until enough evidence could be gathered for a trial. However, despite the governments eagerness to send Gbagbo to the ICC to be tried for his crimes, it seems as though that fervor has cooled significantly in the case of Charles Blé Goudé.
Although the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Blé Goudé that states that he has committed four counts of crimes against humanity, the Ivorian government has yet to respond or take any actions towards surrendering Blé Goudé to them. Despite the fact that he has been been in government custody since he was forcefully extradited from Ghana in January 2013, the Ivorian government has absolutely refused to follow through with its ICC obligations. Instead, Côte d’Ivoire has purposefully enacted a very narrow reading of the Rome Statute in order to temporarily suspend the arrest warrant by trying to decide if the trial should ultimately be set in Côte d’Ivoire or not. However, now that the ICC has officially rejected the Ivorian government’s request for such a suspension, it will be interesting to see how the government responds. Being a member state of the Rome Statute, and thus bound by certain duties to the ICC, the government can either give up Blé Goudé or challenge the admissibility of his case going before the ICC, as they did with former First Lady Simone Gbagbo. What can the ICC do to ensure that the Ivorian government follows through on their commitment to the Rome Statute and surrenders Blé Goudé? Does the government have the capacity to give him a (fair) trial in domestic courts? Will this event have any affect Gbagbo’s own trial in The Hague in the future if relations between the Ivorian government and the ICC deteriorate even further? What change occurred in Ivorian-ICC relations between Côte d’Ivoire’s willingness to pack Gbagbo off to the ICC and the recent dodging of their obligations?