Last Saturday, November 30, the Association of Defence Counsel (ADC-ICTY) held its annual General Assembly. As in the past, it was preceded by a training session, though this year was a bit different. While past trainings have been about trial and appellate skills, substantive law, procedural amendments and ethics, this year is was all about the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, or MICT, or just Mechanism. Ditto for the General Assembly. By constitutional requirement, the ADC must hold a General Assembly to account the past year’s events and achievements, and to plan for the coming year’s challenges. And so, the Mechanism was much on our mind.
This year’s training was more of an exploration of thoughts and concerns about manner and means; the mechanisms of the Mechanism, if you will. The Mechanism essentially mirrors the Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICTY and ICTR. Substantively, little seems to be different. Yet, questions abound. As the ICTY transitions into the MICT (currently coexisting while the ICTY cases are coming to completion), most are concerned with post-conviction relief issues – especially how an aging, far flung population of inmates will be served when no compensation of counsel is required under existing ICTY jurisprudence, though as a matter of past practice a few hours could be granted depending upon circumstances. Not encouraging.
Over the course of the year, ADC representatives met several times with the Registry, highlighting issues, seeking answers, proposing solutions. Because much remained unresolved, members of the ADC Training Committee met with the ICTY/MICT Registrar, requesting clarification. With key answers still elusive, the Registrar agreed to have representatives of the Registry dealing with MICT matters attend the ADC training session. Two came. After a two-hour energetic exchange of ideas, and lots of unanswered questions, the Registry representatives departed with a coffer full of issues to be raised with the Registrar. Further meetings are expected between the Registry and the ADC’s ad hoc committee for MICT and post-conviction matters – yet another confirmation of ADC’s legitimacy with the ICTY/MICT, and its usefulness to the defence counsel … and the tribunals.
The training served as a point of departure for the General Assembly. After dispensing with annual reportage, the focus was on MICT and the future of ADC-ICTY. With membership dues dwindling because of so few active cases, the depletion of the reserved funds squirrelled away over the years for these foreseen lean times, and the requirement of MICT that there be an association in which all list counsel must be members, the discussion focused on whence next. As expected, the meeting was long and emotional. Here we were, discussing not just the transition or transformation of the ADC-ICTY, but its inevitable end. As the meeting dragged on, it became obvious how all had benefited from the ADC, and how the ADC has bonded us, not as a monolithic group, but as strong-willed and independent brothers and sisters, pursuing our individual and occasionally differing objectives through mutual respect and assistance.
Constructive as the General Assembly was, several significant matters were left to be resolved over the course of the next few months. A challenging year lies ahead.
The General Assembly ended with the annual elections. The baton was passed. Godspeed.