Statement to the Press by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 20 July 2013)



Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,

As Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, I have great pleasure in welcoming you to this Press conference. I did not want to conclude my fact-finding visit to Côte d’Ivoire without giving you an update on the activities and meetings I have participated in as part of my official programme since my arrival in Abidjan on Thursday.

Firstly, on behalf of my delegation and in my own name, I should like to express my gratitude to the Ivorians for the warm welcome they have shown us. I should also like to highlight the cooperation we have received from the Ivorian Government, particularly the vital support in coordinating logistics and security for this visit.

Allow me to give you a brief outline of my programme during the past two days. I have held discussions with the Ivorian authorities, including the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Domestic Affairs and Security, the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for Solidarity, the Family, Gender Equality, and Children, as well as senior officials from the respective ministries. In each and every case, these working meetings were fruitful and constructive.

I thanked the Ivorian authorities for the first-rate cooperation the Court has been afforded to date, and took the opportunity to remind them of their obligation to implement our requests for cooperation as promptly as possible. Of course, this obligation includes arrest warrants and requests for surrender to the Court issued by the ICC judges as part of our investigations and prosecutions. It therefore applies to the current arrest warrant for Mrs Simone Gbagbo, as well as to that for any future suspect. The Ivorian authorities reiterated their commitment to ensuring that our requests are diligently followed up.

I also took the opportunity to meet the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the head of UNOCI. My staff had exchanges with the diplomatic community in order to review the latest developments in, and the activities of, my Office.

This morning, I had discussions with several human rights associations and associations representing victims. I regret that I am unable to meet all the victims throughout the country, or to listen to the stories of all those affected by the violence, much as I should like to. By opening investigations and initiating prosecutions in Côte d’Ivoire, we hope that the political leaders, whoever they might be, and all the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire and beyond, will come to realise that it is no longer possible to resort to violence or to commit crimes in order to attain and hold onto power: from now on, no one can escape justice for such crimes. I am doing this for the victims – to give them a voice, and to respond to their suffering. To all the Ivorian victims, I should like to say this: I deplore the suffering you were subjected to, and I pay tribute to the dignity and courage with which you are facing it. The sole raison d’être of the ICC’s activities in Côte d’Ivoire is the victims and the justice they deserve.

I am also conscious of the Ivorian people’s desire to seek justice for the crimes – all crimes – committed during the 2010 presidential elections, and even earlier – since 2002. The investigations being carried out by the Office of the Prosecutor, particularly into those suspected of bearing greatest responsibility for the crimes allegedly committed by all parties, are being undertaken completely objectively, impartially, independently, and in strict accordance with the law.

Given the complementary nature of the ICC action, the Office encourages and supports national proceedings for prosecuting all the perpetrators of the crimes committed: these proceedings ought to apply to the perpetrators of crimes on all sides, regardless of political affiliation. The ICC will do its part, and it is up to the Ivorian judicial authorities to see that justice is served for the others.

I can understand some people’s frustration at the seemingly slow pace at which international justice progresses. It is a reality we must accept: independent investigations require time; impartial justice requires time. Justice must be left to get on with its work, and to take the time necessary to do it properly.

When the ICC judges decide, on the basis of the law and of the evidence presented by my Office, to request the arrest and surrender of another suspect to the Court – regardless of the person’s name, rank, political party, or any other consideration – the Ivorian Government must abide by its obligations and surrender that person to the Court to face the charges brought against him/her.

Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, I should like to reiterate one crucial point: we are a judicial institution, guided solely by evidence and the law. We are not seeking to establish political accountability: all we seek is to establish the criminal responsibility of individuals for the most serious crimes. We investigate and prosecute, on the basis of the evidence we have collected, in an impartial and independent manner. My visit to Abidjan has formed part of this work.

Together with the Ivorian people, we shall seek justice for all of the victims. We shall pursue our work in accordance with the law. We shall fight to end impunity, and to enable justice to take its course.

Thank you. The floor is now yours.

Source:  Office of the Prosecutor