Tag Archive | "ICC"

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi

News Post: ICC orders Libya to hand over Gaddafi’s son

On April 4th, the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) ordered Libyan authorities to surrender Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi after the Libyan transitional government requested a second postponement in surrendering him.  Libyan rebel fighters arrested Seif al-Islam Gadhafi in November 2011 when he was attempting to flee to Niger and the country means to try him in their own court system first.  In its ruling, the ICC requested that Libya “proceed immediately with the surrender,” but Libyan authorities intend to challenge the jurisdiction of the court.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi

The Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Gadhafi for crimes against humanity on June 27, 2011. The Libyan National Transitional Council confirmed the arrest of Mr. Gadhafi in November 2011, but requested a postponement of the Surrender Request until they could complete national proceedings regarding crimes charged against Mr. Gadhafi. In March, the Pre-Trial Chamber dismissed the postponement request.  Later in the month, Libya filed another postponement request.  The Court rejected this postponement request as well, holding that it had jurisdiction over Libya and needed to “start making arrangements in preparation for the surrender of Mr. Gadhafi to the Court without further ado.”

Libyan authorities are currently building a special prison in Tripoli where Gadhafi will be held while the militia is holding him in the western town of Zintan.  Once the prison is complete and Gadhafi has been moved, his trial will begin.  However, many people fear that Gadhafi will not receive a fair and safe trial in Libya.  In addition to the anger felt by Libyan citizens against Gadhafi, a Libyan court could sentence Gadhafi to death for persecuting and killing protestors during the uprising, while an ICC conviction could only result in a prison term.

While Libyans want to see justice in their own country for their citizens, Liz Evenson, senior counsel with Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program has stated that it is “imperative that Libyan authorities start preparing to surrender Seif al-Islam … This is what cooperation with the court means.”  If Libyan authorities do not hand Gadhafi over to the ICC, it is possible that the matter will be brought before the Security Council, as a Security Council Resolution has ordered Libya to cooperate with the ICC.

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The Comparative Cost of Justice at the ICC

On March 14th, the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered it first judgment, finding Thomas Lubanga guilty of three child soldier war crimes offenses.  The verdict is a welcome victory in the fight against impunity and it is some measure of justice for the 60,000 persons killed in the Ituri province in Eastern Congo.  But the judgment highlighted the ICC’s painstakingly slow pace to date – the ICC has been in existence for ten years and so far they have indicted 15 persons and achieved one conviction.  And it should be noted this is not a final conviction, but only a trial verdict.  To be fair, three other accused are in the midst of trials.

Thomas Lubanga at the ICC

Just how much have these 15 indictments and lone conviction cost the ICCs signatories?    The cumulative total of the ICC’s budgets over the initial decade is $900 million.  By way of comparison, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) spent $695 million in its first ten years, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) spent about a $1 billion.   So at a glance the ICC is not out of line with its brethren institutions.

However, the ICTY and ICTR both indicted far more suspects for that money.  The ICTY indicted 161 persons, 1 while the ICTR indicted 91 persons.2  I didn’t have time to research every indictment, but my memory was that most of those indictments had been issued by the ten year mark.

Let’s break those numbers down a bit more.  Based on the numbers above, the cost per suspect indicted at the ICTY, regardless of the outcome of the case, was $4.3 million, it was $11 million at the ICTR and $60 million at the ICC.

I am not going to address the overall cost of international tribunals in this blog. Suffice it to say that they are too expensive and too inefficient in my view.  What I would like to talk about here is the ICC relative costs to the ICTY and ICTR ad hoc tribunals.

While we can expect that the ICC will approach the cost structures of the ad hocsover time, the ICC will never be able to match their operational costs (particularly the lower ICTY costs) for several reasons.

First, the ICTY and ICTR were both mandated by Security Council resolutions, and thus the major political and legal questions about their right to adjudicate matters was resolved before their work began.  At their inception, they had the luxury of focusing their energies on criminal investigations rather than jurisdictional challenges.  The ICC is a wholly different animal.  It must establish its right to exercise its jurisdiction in each situation it chooses to “officially” investigate, and must walk a diplomatic tightrope along the way.  (The only exception to that rule is when the Security Council refers cases to it, as it did with Sudan and Libya.)

Second, the ICTY and ICTR both had clear and specific mandates — to prosecute those most responsible for offenses in defined conflicts.  The ICC, on the other hand, has a global mandate with an obligation to consider crimes committed in any of its 139 signatory territories plus any others referred to it by the Security Council.   The ICC gets thousands of unofficial communiques each year.  It must conduct a cursory review of these communiques regardless of whether it decides to launch an official investigation.

Third, the ICTY and ICTR had one-time ramp-up costs and learning curves.  The ICC goes through this ramp-up process for each official investigation.  The ICC must establish information and logistical beachheads in each situation, creating an investigational infrastructure for each official investigation.  Key witnesses have to be located, relationships formed and nurtured and local politics mastered. Even small details such as safe hotels for accommodation have to be sorted out.

Fourth, the ICC’s broad mandate brings with it an immense problem of language. The two ad hoc tribunals had to contend with difficult regional languages – Kinyarwandan in Rwanda and several Balkan languages in Yugoslavia.  The ICC is obligated to function in all of the languages relevant to the conflicts it investigates: there are 200 languages are spoken in the Congo, 72 in the Central Africa Republic, 45 in Uganda, 142 for Sudan, 79 in The Ivory Coast and 69 in Kenya.  The ICC could breathe easy with Libya where only 9 languages are spoken.  Of course, many people in the Congo speak a lingua franca, Swahili or Lingala.  But many witnesses have stronger language capabilities in their local tongues.

We have given the ICC a complicated mandate to achieve and it is no surprise that it is taking it a while to hit its stride.

  1. The ICTY has concluded proceedings in 126 cases which includes 64 convictions.  17 cases are on appeal.
  2. he ICTR has concluded proceedings in 78 which includes 42 convictions.  18 cases are on appeal.

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Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian

News Post: ICC Tries a Former Head of State

By: Anne Bingert

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian

The International Criminal Court (ICC) made its sixth arrest last week, arresting the former president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo.  Mr. Gbagbo is the first former head of state brought before the ICC.

Mr. Gbagdo appeared for his first hearing in front of the Court on Monday.  During the hearing, Mr. Gbagdo accused his captors of lying to him.  Mr. Gbagbo, who has been under house arrest for the past seven months in the town of Korogho, stated he thought he was being taken to a hearing on embezzlement charges in a local court when he was served an ICC arrest warrant.  Gbagdo was taken into custody and flown overnight to The Hague.

In a statement in the New York Times, the ICC has said Mr. Gbagbo “allegedly bears individual criminal responsibility for four crimes against humanity: murder, rape, persecution and inhuman acts.”  Specifically, Gbagbo is accused of being responsible for the violence that erupted after he lost the presidential election earlier this year.  Refusing to leave office, Mr. Gbagbo used security forces to suppress opposition supporters resulting in the death of at least 3,000 people.  He was captured by opposition forces, backed by the French and United Nations, in April.

Mr. Gbagbo was not the only one surprised by his sudden arrest and transfer to The Hague.  Across the Ivory Coast, supporters reacted with shock.  Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers have called the arrest illegal and intend to challenge the proceedings.  Habiba Toure, one of Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers has called the arrest warrant illegal; “In principle, an arrest warrant is delivered to a free individual or a person on the run, which was not the case for Mr. Gbagbo because he was already in the hands of Ivory Coast officials.”  Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters also criticized the French for their role in the arrest, stating that this is a “neocolonialist trial” and the ICC a tool of the French to “empower friends and punish the ones who don’t follow along.”

ICC prosecutors have until June before they will submit a summary of evidence to the judges who will then decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.  There will be several smaller hearings in the meantime during which Mr. Gbagbo’s lawyers can challenge his arrest and move for his release.

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Fatou Bensouda

What Really Matters in an ICC Prosecutor

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the midst of a process to select a successor to its first prosecutor, Luis Moreno O’Campo.  The governing body of the ICC, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), is seeking to elect a candidate by consensus vote.

The list of candidates has apparently been paired down to two candidates: Fatou Bensouda and Mohamed Chande Othman.  Ms. Bensouda is from The Gambia and is the current Deputy Prosecutor at the ICC.  Mr. Othman is Tanzanian.  He was the Prosecutor at the East Timor Tribunal, the Chief of Prosecutions at the Rwanda Tribunal and he is the current Chief Justice of Tanzania.

Fatou Bensouda

Fatou Bensouda

The Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ) produced a recent study of the qualifications of the two finalists, focusing on the differences in their litigation experience.   The gist of its report is that Ms. Bensouda has more courtroom experience before international tribunals than Mr. Othman and hence is better qualified than Mr. Othman.

I have worked at two international tribunals, Rwanda and Yugoslavia.  In my view, the WIGJ study is fundamentally wrong.  The main criteria the ASP should be valuing in its next prosecutor is managerial excellence, not courtroom skill.

The Prosecutor does not need to appear in court at all and frankly they shouldn’t.  There are good examples of why this is a bad idea.  The Prosecutor’s core responsibility, the one that dwarfs all others, is to create and run an office with sky-high standards of accountability, excellence and transparency.

I could care less whether the Prosecutor can effectively cross-examine a witness or not.  The ICC hires highly skilled people specifically to fill that role.  What is paramount is that the prosecutor is a spectacular manager of people.  Comprise on that quality and you build-in inefficiency, delay and budgetary excess.

It matters not if the Prosecutor can make a great opening statement if the office is in shambles and morale is low.   Here is what does matter:  The Prosecutor should not be encumbered by ego.  The Prosecutor should be secure enough in his or her own abilities to covet subordinates who are more talented than they are, to value their honest criticism and to admit mistakes.

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Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

News Post: Which Court Should Try Seif-al-Islam el-Qaddafi?

By: Brandi Joffrion

Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

Saif el-Islam al-Gadhafi

Libyan rebels captured Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, Moammar Gadhafi’s son, this past Saturday.  Within hours after his capture, the International Criminal Court’s (“ICC”) prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that he would be traveling to Libya becaus Seif-al-Islam is wanted by the ICC for charges of crimes against humanity.  However, Libya is not a member of the ICC Rome Statute, and it is arguable that Libya may not have an obligation under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 to cooperate with the ICC’s regulations.  If Libya were to cooperate, it would have to hand over Seif-al-Islam or, at the very least, recognize that Libya is within the ICC’s jurisdiction to determine whether Seif-al-Islam can, and should, be tried in Libya’s domestic courts.

The rebels from the town of Zintan, who captured Seif-al-Islam, and the unelected interim government of Libya want him tried in Libya, where he would face the death penalty.  This is assuming, of course, that he is not murdered before trial, as occurred to his father.  The ICC, on the other hand, forbids capital punishment and would therefore not seek the death penalty against Seif-al-Islam.  Additionally, concerns have been raised that if Seif-al-Islam is not tried in Libya, Libyan citizens would be denied due justice.

Despite these concerns, it is argued that Seif-al-Islam should be tried in the ICC in order to prevent a repeat of the depraved proceedings that were brought against the Iraqi leaders.  In those cases, the leaders never received due process since they were never tried for their crimes of genocide due to the United States’ insistence that Saddam receive the death penalty.  According to the ICC’s statute, a sovereign nation is to be given priority to try its own citizens and the ICC is only to act as a court of last resort in the instance that the local justice system is in a state of “substantial collapse” or unable to operate in an impartial manner.  Currently, Libya has no working court system that will satisfy international standards and it plans to enforce the death penalty without regard to ICC standards.  Moreover, the Libyan people have demonstrated their willingness to take justice into their own hands without resorting to the justice system, as exemplified through Gadhafi’s death last month at the whim of his captors.

However, Libyan citizens could acquire justice through the ICC if it were to try Seif-al-Islam.  It is mandated that all ICC trials be televised, and either part or all of Seif-al-Islam’s trial proceedings could be held in Libya even if tried by the ICC.  Furthermore, it is possible to hold two trials: one trial in the ICC, in which the ICC would charge Seif-al-Islam with crimes against humanity, and a second trial in Libya’s domestic courts, in which Seif-al-Islam could be tried for a wider scope of crimes, which could include anything from corruption and abuse of state funds to murder and torture.

Trying Seif-al-Islam within the ICC would also set precedent for future Libyan officials who are in violation of international law and who are indicted for crimes against humanity.  As one of the “most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole,” it is argued that crimes against humanity should take precedence over any individual charges of murder or corruption that could be alleged within domestic courts.  In addition, the ICC provides for a fair and transparent process within the international criminal justice system by permitting the accused to raise defenses and summon witnesses, and by empanelling impartial judges, as well as requiring the heightened burden of proof  of proof beyond a reasonable doubt for any individual who may be convicted by the ICC.

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Luis Moreno-Ocampo

News Post: I.C.C. Investigates NATO’s Involvement in Libya

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

On November 2, 2011, the I.C.C.’s Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, announced that because of allegations of crimes committed by NATO forces, “allegations will be examined impartially and independently by the Office.” Although the report concerning these allegations will not be presented until May 2012, the investigation alone shows the importance of accountability for all the parties involved in the Libyan revolution.

Damien McElroy of The Telegraph notes that reports continue to emerge that NATO air strikes violated the scope of the Security Council’s resolution by targeting and killing civilians. For example, before the final days of the regime, pro-Gaddafi forces alleged that NATO killed more than eighty-five civilians in an air strike in the town of Ziltan. Furthermore, one of the regime generals, Khaled Hemidi, filed a lawsuit in a Belgian civil court accusing NATO of killing his wife and three children in separate air strike incident. The validity of such reports remains to be seen. It highlights, however, that each party will be investigated to determine responsibility for the violations.

Nonetheless, much of the international community views the military intervention as the right action. In a recent article, the Economist noted that “[i]t is difficult to imagine a stronger case for military intervention to prevent war crimes . . .” and that “it was clear from the beginning that the NATO intervention in Libya was driven by the broad commitment of Western governments and their publics to aiding democratic transitions and stopping murderous repression.” If such widespread support was the foundation of the military intervention into Libya, then an investigation and subsequent finding of an international violation could de-legitimize all subsequent military interventions taken by regional organizations.

Regardless of the alleged violations, NATO’s presence remains hotly debated by Libya’s interim government. The Libyan interim leader asked NATO to prolong its presence through December in an effort to continue its air patrol and place military advisors on the ground amid worry that remaining loyalists might regroup and resume fighting. Nevertheless, the Security Council unanimously voted to end foreign military intervention in Libya on October 29, effectively ending all foreign intervention.

In sum, the statement made to the Security Council highlights the importance of placing the responsibility of any crime committed on the right party. However, the problem remains three-fold. First, if it is determined that NATO did violate the scope of SCR 1970 by targeting and killing civilians, it remains to be seen whether the International Criminal Court will have the capability to bring a claim against NATO. Second, if such a claim is brought, it could diminish the ability of regional organizations to act by using force in similar cases. Finally, although Libya remains stable, there is still a chance that foreign intervention might be necessary. Regardless of whether NATO intervention led to civilian deaths, many would argue that the end of NATO involvement came too soon following the death of Qaddafi.

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ICC: Consider yourself on notice.

Kudos to Senegal for ending female circumcision. Now, ICC, prosecute the remaining offenders…

Kudos to Senegal for ending the horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) as reported by the New York Times last weekend.  Leadership on this issue needs to come from Africa and so it is very encouraging to see Senegal act so decisively.

ICC: Consider yourself on notice.

ICC: Consider yourself on notice.

However, in places like Sudan and Somalia 90% of the girls are still subjected to it.  The international community should not sit idly by waiting for deep-seated cultural traditions to change at the expense of hundreds of thousands of girls.  So here is my message to you, International Criminal Court (ICC): prosecute FGM as a crime against humanity.  It is plain and simple torture (I refuse to euphamize it by calling it a “practice”) committed against underaged girls.  To qualify as a crime against humanity, it must be part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.  You are covered, ICC.  FGM is prevalent in 27 countries and the World Health Organization estimates that 100-140 million women live with its after-effects.   It is perpetrated against the vast majority of girls in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and substantial numbers in parts of Egypt and Kenya.  If you are Sudanese girl of twelve, it is a virtual certainty that one day soon you will held down and against your will and without anesthesia your clitoris will be cut out with a razor  and your legs tied together for days.  And that girl would consider herself lucky she wasn’t subjected to the more severe form of FGM.

Lucky for you ICC, you have several options at your disposal.  FGM would qualify as torture (article 7(1)(f)), sexual violence (article 7(1)(g)), persecution based on gender (article 7(1)(h)) and other inhumane acts (article 7(1)(k)).  So buck-up, muster some righteous indignation and prosecute away.  Rest assured that it is no defense at the ICC that a criminal act is also a cultural traditional.  Slavery was once a global norm but we nonetheless criminalized it.   ICC, you should not be deterred by the fact that FGM is often committed by a girl’s own family members or community.  It was also seen as normal at one time for parents to sell a child into slavery to settle a debt.  (Heck, some parents still try to do this.)  We did not carve out an exception in the prohibition of slavery for a parental prerogative.

Finally ICC, don’t be dissuaded from prosecuting FGM by the argument that prosecuting it is a form of neocolonialism.  If ending the torture of little girls is a new form of colonialism, I welcome it.  In fact, hand me a pith helmet and I’ll wear it with pride.

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The Vatican

Should the ICC prosecute the Pope?

Last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) along with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests filed a complaint urging the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate their allegation that the three top Vatican officials committed crimes against humanity in covering up rape and sexual assault committed by priests around the world.

The Vatican

The Vatican

There is precedent for criminal trials of clergy for the commission of mass atrocities.   The Rwanda Tribunal convicted Emmanuel Rukundo, a Catholic Priest, for committing crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 25 years.  A Belgian court convicted two nuns, Sister Gertrude Mukangango and Sister Maria Kisito for their role in the slaughter of 7000 Tutsi civilians in Rwanda.  Interned Jews at Auschwitz put God himself on trial, captured brilliantly in the aptly-named play God on Trial.  A PBS production of the play can be found on Youtube, and the ten minute closing argument is a must see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD5HslPrBKc.

Despite the precedent, prosecuting the Pope is a legal non-starter for a host of reasons.  First, at the ICC a crime against humanity requires that there is a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.   While a cover-up is deplorable, it does not rise to the level of an attack in the crime against humanity context.  Second, the Rome Statute has abettor liability, but only when the abetting conduct is done for the purpose of facilitating the commission of the principal crime.  Here, the abetting was not done with the purpose of facilitating the commission of sexual abuse, but for other reasons such as salvaging its reputation.  Third, the ICC only has jurisdiction for crimes committed after July 2002.  This precludes much of the Catholic church’s offending behavior from the ICC’s jurisdiction.  Fourth, the ICC only has jurisdiction for crimes committed in the territory of signatory countries or perpetrated by nationals from signatory countries.  Neither the Vatican nor the United States are signatories for starters.  Fifth, the prosecution has two procedural “outs”.  They can decline to investigate a matter if they deem it not of sufficient gravity or not in the interests of justice.  The ICC, still in its infancy, would avail itself of one of these options rather than take on such a big fish at this early stage.  Sixth, the Security Council has the procedural right to suspend an investigation at the ICC for one year which can be renewed.

Even if the ICC could justify legally an investigation, it would be foolish to take on the Catholic Church at this stage and expend so much credibility on such a marginal case.  There are much stronger cases against religious organizations/governments, such as al Shabaab in Somalia or the Taliban in Afghanistan that demand their attention.

 

 

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Sources: The Age, The Guardian, War and Law Blog

News Post: What to do with Muammar Gaddafi

Sources: The Age, The Guardian, War and Law Blog

Sources: The Age, The Guardian, War and Law Blog

Following Muammar Gaddafi’s fall from power, there has been much discussion in the international law community about how to try Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Abdullah al-Senussi for their war crime charges.

Geoffrey Robertson, a former UN appeal judge, argues that Libyans should not decide the fate of Gaddafi. He bases his opinion partly on the problems surrounding the trial of Saddam Hussein. “Saddam’s trial was manifestly unfair: two judges who showed signs of independence were forced off the bench . . .” Additionally, Robertson believes that the National Transitional Council will not be able to provide a fair trial and the Libyan justice system must be “reconstructed from scratch with judges independent of the new government.” Robertson argues that Gaddafi must be tried at The Hague because he is “charged with crimes against humanity-the mass murder of civilians with offences so barbaric they demean us all.” Robertson also asserts that since Gaddafi’s removal from power was largely due to international law via the Security Council ordering NATO involvement, Libyans now have a “reciprocal duty” to follow international law.  Robertson goes even further to state that any country that harbors Gaddafi should face UN sanctions. Gaddafi must face fair trial by rule of law.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s office made a statement that Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor will continue to have conversations with Libya’s Transitional National Council about how to handle the fate of Gaddafi and his associates. The ICC prosecutor’s officer indicated that “further conversations will define the precise way to move forward,” which may include “the possibility to apprehend and surrender to the court the three individuals alleged to have committed crimes after 17 of February 2011, and also to investigate and prosecute them in Libya for crimes committed previously.” Alison Cole, writer for the Guardian UK, worries that the National Transitional Council may decide not to send the suspects to the ICC. Similar to Robertson, Cole argues that under international law Gaddafi and his associates should be transferred to The Hague to be tried by the ICC. However, once at The Hague, Cole believes the Libyan government can present their argument on why the suspects should be tried at home. Despite calls for local justice, Gaddafi should be tried at the ICC.

Max du Plessis, a law professor at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and Christopher Gevers, a teacher of human rights and international criminal law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, discuss the issue of other nations harboring Gaddafi and his associates. There are concerns that the suspects may elude justice by escaping to Angola or Zimbabwe, which are not parties to the ICC. However, du Plessis and Gevers were pleased about the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s (DIRCO) announcement that it would not assist the suspects in hiding from justice. “South African officials and/or nationals who make themselves complicit in Gaddafi’s evasion of justice would place themselves at risk of being responsible under both South African law and international criminal law as accessories after the fact to the crimes that Gaddafi is alleged to have committed,” state du Plessis and Gevers. Libya: Essential that ICC member states not lend support to Gaddafi evading justice.

Clearly, the international law community will be watching to see when and if Gaddafi and his associates are located and brought to trial at the ICC. This complicated matter depends in part on the actions of Libya and other nation states. As du Plessis and Gevers stated, “the ICC does not have its own police force . . .”

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Peter Robinson

Interview with Peter Robinson, Legal Advisor to Radovan Karadzic

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

On Monday, July 18, 2011, I sat down with Peter Robinson at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, The Netherlands. Mr. Robinson is the legal advisor to founding member of the Serbian Democratic Party and former President of the Republic of Srpska, Radovan Karadzic. Karadzic appears before the tribunal charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990′s. His trial began on October 26, 2009 and is currently ongoing. What follows is a candid conversation touching on Dr. Karadzic’s case specifically and the ICTY and international criminal justice more generally. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Robinson for his time and cooperation. His experience and insight are an invaluable resource for those seeking to look critically at international criminal justice. Biographical information about Mr. Robinson, as well as a link to buy his thriller, The Tribunal, are available at www.PeterRobinson.com.

JB: Many of our readers may be unfamiliar with the nature of your professional relationship with Dr. Karadzic, as he represents himself and you act as his Legal Advisor. Can you describe your division of labor and respective roles?

PR: Basically, I work on all legal issues. I draft pleadings for him to review and sign if we are going to file something in writing. If something comes up during the trial, I can intervene by objection. Sometimes, I make oral motions on evidentiary issues that need to be made quickly and are not so complicated that they need to be put in writing. In short, I work on the legal aspect of the case and [Dr. Karadzic] deals with the factual issues.

JB: And does he take your legal advice?

PR: Most of the time. Actually, I advised him against boycotting the trial at the start because I didn’t think it was legitimate to do that. He told me, “Look. I know politics, and you know law. This is a political tribunal, and we are going to do it my way.” So, that is how we did it.

JB: It is frequently argued that representing yourself in a criminal proceeding, even if you are a trained lawyer, is a foolish thing to do. Have you found that self-representation has served Dr. Karadzic’s needs politically and legally speaking? Would you recommend someone in his position to handle his or her situation as Dr. Karadzic has handled his?

PR: Well, it depends on the person, and it depends on the trial. From his point of view, he was correct in thinking that it would be very difficult for any lawyer, no matter how good they were, to be able to get him off on these charges. If what he wants to accomplish is to educate the public, to educate history, especially in the view of the Bosnian people, then he has a good opportunity to do that by representing himself and having the floor every day. Otherwise, he would just be sitting there. In two years, when it was his turn to testify, he would be able to speak for a couple of weeks and that would be it as far as participation in his trial was concerned.

Also, he has actually gotten to be very good in the course of the year that he has been [representing himself]. He has improved a lot and does a really good job. Because he knows the facts so well, he is sometimes able to come up with a counter argument on the spot in a way that no lawyer could have ever done. His abilities are very high. He is articulate and works really hard. Given the parameters of what he wants to accomplish, I think it was a good decision for him.

JB: Part of the reason that Dr. Karadzic selected you to be his Legal Advisor was that you came from a common law system. Why, as a common lawyer, were you particularly suited to represent a client at this tribunal?

PR: Maybe 80% of the decisions made here are based on common law principles and precedents. And the procedure in the trial itself is maybe 95% common law. Even though you can use concepts from both systems, and a good lawyer would try and take the best from any system and try and argue that they should apply it here. In practice, because the Americans were the driving force in setting up [the ad hoc tribunals] that it’s taken a real common law bent where as the ICC is a little more of a balance between the common and civil law systems.

JB: International criminal tribunals seek the twin goals of domestic catharsis and bringing culpable individuals to justice. Based on your extensive experience at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, how do you see this balance being struck in practice?

PR: I think they have gone way too far in the way of trying to prove everything that took place in a particular conflict, from a historical point of view. As a result, the trials are too big, they take too long, and in the Milosevic case they never accomplished the real goal, which is to hold an individual accountable.

And they made the same mistake in Karadzic’s case. We asked them to narrow the charges and simplify the trial, but they had no interest in doing that. As a result, we are in a trial that is going to last four or five years. It was a mistake not to focus the cases on the most effective way to hold someone accountable and have a sentence that would reflect the gravity of the charges while at the same time making the trial manageable.

JB: So you think that the public criticism that these trials are mostly a decade long formality, that this is not a situation in which someone is innocent until proven guilty, and that the focus of these tribunals is not on the defendant but on the public at large are well-founded?

PR: Yeah, they are. I think that it is more difficult to get a fair trial at these tribunals than it is in [the American] national system.

JB: I was particularly struck by the disparity in numbers. The prosecution has around 30 lawyers at its disposal and the defense team has only 5 full time attorneys. The prosecution turned over 2 million pages of documents for review. This seems to bolster negative perception frequently attributed to the ad hoc tribunals. Why doesn’t the UN do something about it?

PR: We really complain about that a lot. When it started out, they only wanted to have one person representing him. The registrar said that if you are representing yourself, that means “self.” Only you. We will pay someone to pass papers back and forth between you and the registrar, but that’s it. We had to appeal all the way to the President for them to say, “No. You cannot have self-representation unless you have the right to the assistance of case managers, investigators, and a legal advisor.” But the problem is that you will never be equal to the prosecution. Even in the U.S., the police will always have more resources than the defense.

The prosecution is supposed to take the results of their work and turn it over as disclosure. The theory is that you can make up for the disparity in resources by having the prosecution turn over the results of what they do. The problem is that, because the cases are so big, we really cannot effectively utilize the disclosure. We need more people to be able to equalize the playing field. And I am speaking only about our ability to handle what the prosecution already did, let alone have our own people go out and re-investigate the case. We just want to be able to understand what they are giving us.

Most of these documents fall under the category of “exculpatory evidence.” They think the evidence is important enough to Dr. Karadzic’s case that they feel compelled to turn it over. At this point, we cannot find it or read it. I think the problem with the UN system is that the cases are so big and the tribunals are so expensive that they don’t want to pay a lot of money for a big defense team.

Peter Robinson and Jon Bellish at the ICTY

Peter Robinson and Jon Bellish at the ICTY

JB: Dr. Karadzic’s defense would appear to rest on attribution. There is little question factually as to what happened, and the question seems to be whether what happened is attributable to Dr. Karadzic such that the charges levied against him can be imputed to him. Has the conceptual distance between Dr. Karadzic and the actions on the ground made his defense easier? Conversely, will General Mladic’s defense be more difficult due to the fact that he was actually directing men on the field?

PR: It is true that the closer you are to the perpetrators, the easier the case is. So when crimes are committed by the army, it will be easier to hold Mladic responsible than Karadzic, but Karadzic was also the Supreme Commander of the Army, like Barack Obama is the Commander in Chief of the United States Army. But the problem is that Dr. Karadzic does not really accept that the facts are the way the prosecution says they are, and he wants to challenge what happened in these municipalities. For example, the court has established in other trials that the authorities were responsible for what happened in a camp in a particular municipality, that the authorities gave direction to the people who were maltreating victims in the camp. He doesn’t accept that. He thinks that in other cases, people haven’t challenged the facts because they just want to say, “it wasn’t me,” or, “it was somebody else.” So he insists that this “crime base,” as it’s called, be challenged, and he doesn’t accept anything until it is actually proven. He wants to know not just that crimes were committed but who specifically committed them, what is their specific relationship to the state, what is their specific relationship to the authorities. As a result of that, lots of things have come out of his trial that ever came out before. Where the court thought that people under the authority of the state were committing the crimes, it comes out, as it did today, that people were not under the control of the state when committing the crimes.

It has been a different approach than most lawyers would have taken for him. Most lawyers would just say, “let’s just concentrate on the most difficult part that they have to prove – that you are linked to these crimes.” But [Karadzic] just says, “No. I want every stage to be challenged. Who did it, why did they do it, what is their relationship to me?”

JB: Do you have any reason to believe that the UN will take these lessons to heart in the ICC and shrink the cases thereby seeking a more balanced approach?

PR: They seem to be doing that. They started off with a very small charge against Thomas Lubanga in their first case. It went sideways on many different levels due to some problems with the case, but their concept was basically to focus on something that was manageable. It seems like they have continued in that way, and have applied lessons they learned from the Milosevic case in particular.

JB: What will be the future of Karadzic’s and Mladic’s cases? Do you think they will have their cases joined or have them transferred to the ICC, or will the Security Council simply cease their demand for the tribunal to finish its work?

PR: I think that they will just let the trials be completed. They would like to have them completed as soon as possible. There is some possibility that the two cases will be joined for the purposes of Srebrenica. We haven’t started hearing witnesses for that, and this could create a situation where the witnesses would only have to come once. It is a possibility, but it is one that would delay the rest of Karadzic’s trial. It’s not easy to work that out when we have already had a year of trial. The prosecutor does not seem to be headed in that direction. Karadzic has said that he wants to see what Mladic’s defense team looks like and what his strategy is before deciding if the defense wishes to join the case or if we would rather have them be separate.

Posted in Jon Bellish, TVFA PostsComments (11)


University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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