The International Criminal Court on Wednesday upheld the 2019 acquittal of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and ordered all conditions of his release removed.
Prosecutors had argued that grave errors were made by war crimes judges who found they failed to prove their case against Gbagbo and co-accused former minister Charles Ble Goude.
Wednesday’s appeals panel decision by majority to reject the prosecutors’ appeal against the acquittal ends proceedings against both men.
Leaving the court a free man, Ble Goude said he was happy the case was over.
“I’m acquitted person now definitely speaking. I thank all the people of Ivory Coast and Africa for their support,” he said.
He would not give a time frame for returning home, saying he first would speak with his family and lawyers.
“It depends on the government of my country, but I’ll make the request,” he said.
Gbagbo was believed to have left the court without speaking to media. It was not clear what his next step will be or when he might seek to return to Ivory Coast.
His wife, Simone Gbagbo, expressed joy at the court’s decision.
“Now that he is released, he must return home,” she said from Abidjan. “The government must charter a plane to pick him up. I am counting on the government to do so.”
Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the panel “rejects the prosecutors’ appeal and confirms the decision of the Trial Chamber.”
“The appeals chamber hereby revokes all remaining conditions on the release of Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ble Goude as a result of this judgment,” he added.
Gbagbo served as president from 2000 until his arrest in 2011 after his refusal to concede electoral defeat to current President Alassane Ouattara. The civil conflict that followed killed 3,000 people.
Amnesty International West Africa researcher Michele Eken said the victims “will be disappointed again today”.
Eken said the acquittal means “the court has held no one responsible for atrocity crimes committed during this period”.