Impact and Efficacy of the ICC
What is the impact of the ICC investigation on the political context in Côte d’Ivoire?
Both ICC cases pertaining to the Ivorian situation focus on crimes allegedly committed by Gbagbo and his associates. Although the Prosecutor has committed to a sequential approach that will eventually indict actors on both sides of the conflict, after a decade of investigations, no cases against perpetrators from Ouattara’s camp have thus far been opened. This has contributed to a feeling amongst Gbagbo’s still substantial support base, and amongst domestic and international civil society organisations, that justice is one-sided.
The Prosecutor’s ‘sequential’ strategy in the Ivorian case reveals a tension between a ‘legalist’ and a ‘political’ interpretation of judicial impartiality.11 An impartial legal procedure does not necessarily give the appearance of political neutrality.
Said differently, an impartial and procedurally fair legal process might follow a prosecutorial strategy that is not politically neutral, in perception or in fact. In an effort to use resources efficiently and to increase the chances of securing redress for victims, the Prosecutor has discretion to select cases where a conviction is most likely. While independent in its investigation, the prosecutor nonetheless depends on a state’s cooperation to collect evidence and arrest individuals. In Côte d’Ivoire, this tension has translated into a sequenced approach, with the Prosecutor first bringing charges against the highest authorities of Gbagbo’s camp – individuals who lost power to the current regime.
As the Ivorian case illustrates, the pace and requirements of legal procedure at the ICC may exist in tension with the political realities surrounding international crimes. While the Prosecutor’s sequential strategy is sensible from the perspective of the Court and its judges, the political climate remains tense in Côte d’Ivoire and Gbagbo retains significant support in the country. From the perspective of those in the Ivorian opposition, the perception of one-sided international prosecutions has exacerbated tensions in a country still struggling, a decade after the transition, to reconcile and move beyond political divides.