Asser in the press on International Criminal Court’s Gbagbo decision

Published 15 January 2019

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, pictured here with footballer Abedi Pele, was acquitted by the International Criminal Court. Asser researcher Dr Marta Bo: "As in any other criminal court, the accused before the ICC benefit from the presumption of innocence”. © Wikimedia.

Asser researcher Dr Marta Bo is quoted by news agency Agence France-Presse on the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to acquit former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo. While the prosecution failed to convince the Court that Gbagbo was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people after losing an election, “one should refrain from basing an opinion about the Court based only on this one decision”, says Bo.

The ICC is tasked with holding accountable those individuals responsible for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. The failure to prosecute Gbabgo is seen by some as an indication that the court is not fulfilling its mandate. Bo, however, stresses that “It is wrong to assess the success of a criminal court on the basis of its conviction rate. As in any other criminal court, the accused before the ICC benefit from the presumption of innocence”.

Cardinal principle
According to the Asser expert, “today’s decision and the previous acquittals of Bemba and Kenyatta should reassure the international community that the ICC acts as an independent court of law and that is willing to rigorously apply the cardinal principle of presumption of innocence”. However, Dr Bo believes the Court is not completely free from blame. Bo: “Some criticism could be levelled against the Office of the Prosecutor for its failure to present sufficient evidence to sustain its case. However, the Trial Chamber has not issued yet the reasons for its decision, making it therefore difficult to meaningfully discuss the potential failures in the prosecutorial strategy.”

Further reading
Read the full story in The Independent, Yahoo News, and the Daily Mail

Dr Bo has published on the ICC and is part of the Asser research strand Human Dignity and Human Security in International and European Law. This research strand adopts a human rights approach to global challenges in the field of counter-terrorism, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, international trade, environmental protection, European private international law, and the law of EU external relations. It examines what it means to safeguard human dignity - also in relation to human security - in these areas.