Arusha, January 15, 2014 (FH) – Côte d’Ivoire has requested three more months to respond to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its obligation to transfer former Justice Minister Charles Blé Goudé. In a request submitted Monday, lawyers for the Ivorian government say the extra time is necessary because of judicial procedures against Blé Goudé in Côte d’Ivoire.

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On December 2, the ICC requested the Ivorian authorities to submit “not later than MondayJanuary 13, 2014” their observations concerning the status of the ICC request to transfer Blé Goudé to The Hague in accordance with an ICC arrest warrant. Blé Goudé, a former close ally of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo and leader of the Young Patriots militia, is currently detained in his country following his extradition from Ghana in January 2013. Gbagbo is in the ICC prison.

In their request submitted Monday, Abidjan’s lawyers say Blé Goudé has been charged and questioned by Ivorian judicial authorities. The two French lawyers, Jean-Pierre Mignard and Jean-Paul Benoit, say that in the first quarter of 2014 they intend to confront him with other suspects and that his continued presence in Côte d’Ivoire is thus “indispensable for the proper administration of justice”. They therefore ask the ICC for three more months starting January 13. 

Article 94 of the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, says that “if the immediate execution of a request would interfere with an ongoing investigation or prosecution of a case different from that to which the request relates, the requested State may postpone the execution of the request for a period of time agreed upon with the Court”.

Ivorian judicial authorities have charged Blé Goudé with war crimes committed during violence that followed the 2010-2011 elections, which left some 3,000 people dead. The crisis stemmed from Gbagbo’s refusal to cede power after his defeat to current president Alassane Ouattara in the second round of presidential elections in December 2010.

Gbagbo, who is suspected of crimes against humanity committed during the same period, has been held at ICC headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, since late November 2011. His wife Simone, who is imprisoned in Côte d’Ivoire like Blé Goudé, is also under an ICC arrest warrant.