Côte d’Ivoire’s former President, Laurent Gbagbo is waiting for the Ivorian authorities to issue him a passport so that he may return to the country. Gbagbo, released on bail in Belgium, was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court last year.
Former President Laurent Gbagbo made several unsuccessful requests for a diplomatic passport to be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abidjan. In the end, he decided to apply for an ordinary passport or a laissez-passer at the Embassy of Côte d’Ivoire in Brussels.
“As a former head of state, he should have been able to receive a diplomatic passport and this is why we applied,” his lawyer Habiba Toure told RFI.
She added that there has been no response from the authorities and this is why Gabgbo then opted to ask for an ordinary passport “because any Ivorian citizen is entitled to one”.
“He even applied for a laissez-passer in order to travel to Côte d’Ivoire as soon as possible,” said Toure. “But in the end the Ivorian authorities will just do what they want.”
Toure add that the authorities in Abidjan are politicising an issue which should have been a straightforward legal one.
“After his acquittal on 15 January 2019, and the lifting of restrictive conditions on 28 May 2020, it is high time for President Laurent Gbagbo to return home,” she said.
The return of Laurent Gbagbo to Côte d’Ivoire is a major political issue, three months before the presidential election. His party the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) indeed urges him to stand for election.
“This is not the issue at the moment. Here is a man who has not seen his country in ten years and he just wants to go back home as soon as possible,” Toure said.
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The former head of state (2000-2010) was acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of four counts of crimes against humanity over the 2010-2011 bloodshed following a disputed vote in Côte d’Ivoire: murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts. He has always maintained his innocence.
Gbagbo was released after seven years of detention in The Hague. The Court is currently examining the appeal request of the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.
Technically, Gbagbo could be jailed upon his return in Côte d’Voire, having been sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term last November for the “looting” of the local branch of the Central Bank of the West African States (BCEAO) during the post-election crisis.
Gbagbo has been released on bail to Belgium since his acquittal last year.