On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court will decide whether to uphold the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo, the first head of state to face trial at the tribunal.
A surge of post-election unrest in the West African nation more than a decade ago cleared Gbagbo, 75, and his former youth leader charles Ble Goude of crimes against humanity in 2019.
Since Gbagbo challenged the outcome of the 2010 poll, the Prosecutor’s Office called against the acquittal and wants the bloodshed retrial.
The new president Alassane Ouattara declined to hand control over, but French soldiers finally intervened and Gbagbo had been forced from the bunker by Ouattara’s loyalists.
The next year, he was forwarded to the ICC in The Hague.
The verdict is read out by the Chamber of Appeals of the Court in the Hague-based court at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT).
The Chamber is headed by Chile-Osuji (ex-ICC Chairman) and includes Piotr Hofmanski (current Chief).
Gbagbo lives in Brussels until Wednesday, but expects to go home with the olive branch that his former rival gave.
Whether Gbagbo and Ble Goude will be on trial or attend by video connection because of restrictions on the coronavirus, an ICC spokesman told AFP had not yet been verified.
In Ivory Coast, where Gbagbo’s shadow continues to linger over a country still in recession, the decision will be closely watched.
Gbagbo was president from 2000 to 2010, during a period of instability in the world’s leading cocoa producer, which was once a haven of stability and prosperity in turbulent West Africa.
His old foe Ouattara sparked fresh unrest last year by announcing that he is going to attempt a third term in office—a scheme criticizing a constitutional breakthrough.
Clashes took 87 lives, with the October ballot, won by Ouattara, snubbing most of the opponents.
But Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party ended an electoral boycott of a long period after Ouattara was offering Gbagbo pasports to help return.
The ICC prosecution’s argument against Gbagbo’s acquittal is based on what it claims was a legal mistake in 2019, when judges did not issue a correct written verdict but only delivered the ruling orally.
At a hearing, prosecution lawyer Helen Brady said that there was “no innocent procedural irregularity” but had “tarnished the very heart” of the ruling.
The defense maintained that it had provided crucial elements of evidence during the trial, citing 4,610 papers and 96 witnesses.
Meanwhile, the decision is critical for the ICC’s reputation after a string of high-profile failures and controversies.
Fatou Bensouda, the outgoing ICC prosecutor, has endured a number of defeats, including the Gbagbo dispute and the acquittal on appeal of former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba.
Bensouda has dropped accusations of crimes against humanity against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in connection with the electoral bloodshed.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal, established in 2002 to prosecute the world’s most heinous crimes.
To date, it has mostly targeted African criminals, while an investigation into Palestinian territory has enraged Israel and the United States.
Bensouda is now sanctioned by the US after opening an investigation into war crimes committed by US troops in Afghanistan.
The United States ratified the treaty establishing the ICC in 2000 but has stated that it does not plan to ratify it.