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Ivory Coast ex-President Gbagbo’s lawyer calls on ICC to free ex-leader

The ICC’s chief prosecutor has appealed the ruling alleging “legal and procedural errors”

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Gbagbo's lawyer calls for his freedom from the ICC
A man holds a placard reading "Gbagbo arrives, Ouattara must get out". (Photo by SIA KAMBOU / AFP)

The lawyer for former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has asked the International Criminal Court to “immediately and unconditionally” release him after his acquittal over post-electoral violence that killed around 3,000 people.

Gbagbo, the first head of state to stand trial in The Hague, and his deputy Charles Ble Goude were both cleared of crimes against humanity in January and released under conditions the following month.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor has appealed the ruling alleging “legal and procedural errors”. Belgium agreed to host Gbagbo, 73, after he was released in February under conditions including that he would return to court for any prosecution appeal against his acquittal.

Ble Goude is living in the Netherlands under similar conditions.

Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit sent a 22-page letter to the ICC asking it to “immediately and unconditionally free Gbagbo … and to say that he is free to go wherever he wishes, for example his own country,” adding that he should be able to contest next year’s presidential election.

“Laurent Gbagbo could in effect, at the demand of political players in the country, be allowed to participate in the campaign … or even be a candidate,” said the letter, seen on Tuesday.

“Restrictions on his freedom could … prevent him from playing a role in the public life of his country and in reconciliation.”

Gbagbo faced charges on four counts of crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed which following a disputed vote in the West African nation. 

Prosecutors said Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” after he was narrowly defeated by his rival – now president – Alassane Ouattara in elections in the world’s largest cocoa producer.

He and Ble Goude were tried over responsibility for murder, attempted murder, rape, persecution and “other inhumane acts” during five months of violence, both pleading not guilty. However, judges dismissed the charges, saying that the prosecution “failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard.”

Against the backdrop of the Gbagbo controversy, Ivory Coast’s opposition are trying to mark out common ground ahead of next year’s presidential poll in which Ouattara, 77, has yet to confirm he is standing.

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Sudanese protesters call for dissolution of Bashir’s National Congress Party

The demonstrators carried banners saying “Dissolve the National Congress Party”

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Sudanese call for dissolution of Bashir's National Congress Party
(File photo)

Thousands of Sudanese rallied in several cities including the capital Khartoum on Monday, urging the country’s new authorities to dissolve the former ruling party of ousted Islamist leader Omar al-Bashir.

Crowds of men and women rallied in Khartoum, its twin city of Omdurman, Madani, Al-Obeid, Port Sudan and in the town of Zalinge in war-torn Darfur, expressing their support for the new authorities who are tasked with the country’s transition to a civilian rule.

Monday’s gatherings also marked the October 21, 1964 uprising that had ousted the then military leader Ibrahim Abboud.

The demonstrators carried banners saying “Dissolve the National Congress Party”, a correspondent reported.

The rallies, organised by the umbrella protest movement Forces of Freedom and Change, was also meant to demand “justice for the martyrs” killed during the months-long uprising that led to Bashir being ousted in April.

Some Islamist groups had also called for similar gatherings on Monday in Khartoum but no major rally was reported, witnesses said.

Bashir and his Islamist National Congress Party ruled Sudan for three decades since 1989 when he came to power in an Islamist-backed coup.

Protests had erupted against his government in December 2018, and quickly turned into a nationwide movement against him that finally led to his removal.

The protest movement says more than 250 people were killed in the uprising. Officials have given a lower death toll.

Bashir is being held in a prison in Khartoum and on trial on charges of corruption. 

Several other officials of his government and senior party members are also in jail.

Sudan is now ruled by a joint civilian-military sovereign council that is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to a civilian rule, the key demand of the protest movement.

A civilian-led cabinet led by reputed economist Abdalla Hamdok as prime minister is charged with the day to day running of the country.

Hamdok is due to deliver an address to the nation later on Monday.

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Sudan agrees to ceasefire after peace talks with rebels

“Peace is a very strategic goal for us. The transformation of Sudan is anchored on peace,” said Hedi Idriss Yahia

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Sudan agrees to ceasefire after peace talks with rebels
(File photo)

Sudan’s government agreed Monday to allow humanitarian relief to war-torn parts of the country and renewed a ceasefire pact with major rebel groups at peace talks in South Sudan.

Officials from all sides said the new administration in Khartoum and the two umbrella groups of rebels had signed a declaration to keep the doors open to dialogue.

“The political declaration will pave the way for political negotiations and is a step towards a just, comprehensive and final peace in Sudan,” said General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, a key figure in Sudan’s transitional government.

READ: Sudan announces “permanent ceasefire” as peace talks hit deadlock

Talks have been underway in Juba since last week between the new government in Khartoum and rebels who fought now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

The new transitional authorities, tasked with leading the way to civilian rule after the ouster of Bashir, have vowed to bring peace to these conflict zones.

The peace talks have been held in the capital of South Sudan after its President, Salva Kiir, volunteered to mediate. Sudan’s neighbour and former foe is struggling to end its own war.

One of the rebel movements involved in the talks, the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), said the agreement reached in Juba was a good step.

“Peace is a very strategic goal for us. The transformation of Sudan is anchored on peace,” said Hedi Idriss Yahia, who signed the agreement in Juba on Monday on behalf of the SRF.

READ: South Sudan to hold peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Khartoum agreed to let aid into marginalised, conflict-wracked areas of Sudan long cut off from humanitarian groups during Bashir’s rule. They include Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions.

The talks were almost derailed last week after one rebel group threatened to pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba Mountains where it said government attacks were ongoing.

Hours later, Khartoum announced a “permanent ceasefire” in the three conflict zones. 

An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April, a palace coup that followed nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.

Bashir is currently on trial in Khartoum on charges of corruption after being overthrown following months of nationwide protests against his ironfisted rule.

READ: Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok arrives in South Sudan on first official trip

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Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba resigns from party over stance on racial inequality

“I cannot reconcile myself with a group of people who believe that race is irrelevant in the discussion of inequality…”

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Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba resigns over party's stance on racial inequality
Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba (MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

The mayor of South Africa’s biggest city Johannesburg resigned on Monday, saying he was stepping down from the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) over the party’s approach to racial inequality.

When Herman Mashaba was elected in 2016, he became the city’s first mayor not from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) since apartheid ended in 1994.

The 60-year-old millionaire, who made his fortune in black hair products, was one of the most senior politicians in the pro-business DA, long considered a party for middle-class white people.

But on Monday, he quit the DA, which means he can no longer serve as mayor.

“I cannot reconcile myself with a group of people who believe that race is irrelevant in the discussion of inequality and poverty in South Africa,” Mashaba told a press conference in Johannesburg.

He said his decision was sparked by the election of former DA leader Helen Zille as the party’s federal council chairperson at the weekend.

The DA has been engulfed by a power struggle between its first black leader, Mmusi Maimane — a close Mashaba ally — and the old guard, represented by Zille.

Zille has stoked controversy by arguing there were some positive aspects to colonialism.

“The election of Zille as the chairperson of the federal council represents a victory for people in the DA who stand diametrically opposed to my beliefs and value system,” Mashaba said.

The DA has struggled to shed its image as a historically white party. Its share of the vote shrunk in elections earlier this year despite numerous scandals plaguing the ANC.

Mashaba said his city government’s “pro-poor agenda” was at the heart of the dispute.

“Some members of the DA caucus in Johannesburg have suggested that we prioritise the needs of suburban residents above providing dignity to those forgotten people who remain without basic services 25 years after the end of apartheid,” he said.

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