Belgium has agreed to take in former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo after his shock acquittal at the International Criminal Court.
He was granted a conditional release by the ICC. He must remain in his host country. He is also not allowed to contact any witnesses from his case or speak publicly about the case.
Gbagbo’s lawyer Emmanuel Altit unsuccessfully argued that conditional release went against the very principle of this client’s acquittal.
Belgium spokesman Karl Lagatie said his government took in Gbagbo because it is “part of the framework of our support for international criminal jurisdictions.”
Gbagbo and his co-defendant Charles Ble Goude were acquitted of crimes against humanity on January 15, but the ICC refused to release them until a host country was found.
Judges said the prosecution’s case was exceptionally weak in trying to link the men to election-related violence in Ivory Coast in 2010 and 2011 that left roughly 3,000 people dead.
Prosecutors are planning to appeal.
Last month’s acquittal has intensified criticism of the ICC, which has convicted only four people in nearly 20 years of operation. One of them—former Congolese vice-president Jean Pierre Bemba—was later acquitted on appeals.
Critics say the court is ineffective and overly focused on African cases. Supporters note the so-called “court of last resort” is probing other regions of the world, and they say the court has insufficient means to realize a daunting mandate.