The Common Code of Professional Conduct – Part 1: flawed and hubristic

On Friday 10 November 2017, The Fifth International Meetings of the Defence adopted the so-called Common Code of Professional Conduct for all Counsel appearing before the International Criminal Tribunals (Common Code). Aside from being a non-binding document (I hesitate to call it a code since it is nothing of the kind), it is flawed and hubristic.  Indeed, it may be that everything you need to know about the arrogance of the document and its creators can be divined from the declaration that it is to be “referred to as the 2017 Nuremberg Code.”

By happenstance, I heard that the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC) was consulted on this initiative. Having a particular interest in professional responsibility and ethics, I reached out to get a copy of the Common Code.

The ADC – the first and without a doubt the most accomplished association of its kind – was not involved in the drafting of the Common Code. The ADC sent its members a copy of the “Proposed Code,” informing them that it received the draft relatively late in the process. After the ADC Executive Committee and Disciplinary Council made an initial assessment of the Proposed Code, and without circulating it to the ADC membership (for reasons that become obvious from the available correspondence and discussed below), it decided that the ADC could not sign the Proposed Code as presented. Continue reading “The Common Code of Professional Conduct – Part 1: flawed and hubristic”

Share

Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony

Few can match Scott Turow’s writing and storytelling abilities. Very few. Over the years he spoiled us with his prose, his canny insight, his attention to detail. His freshman work, One L, was a must-read for a generation of law students. Some of the courtroom scenes in Presumed Innocent are as riveting as they are authentic. And Identical, his last novel before his recently released Testimony, was a true masterpiece, capturing all the nuances of Greek and Greek-American culture.

So, with deep regret, I suggest that if you were looking to escape (or vacate as I put it) from the daily pressures with a good novel – especially one that may hit close to home – Turow’s Testimony is not one of them.  If you have yet to set off for the beach, pull it from your bag and grab something else (perhaps the new John Grisham novel, Camino Island) desist from buying it at the airport while waiting for your flight, and refrain from gifting it to a friend or colleague. Harsh warnings, but I think justifiable. Continue reading “Book Review: Scott Turow disappoints and affronts in Testimony”

Share

And the waiting goes on …

Oral arguments in Prlić et al. concluded this Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Appeals Chamber – some 12 years since I began representing Dr. Jadranko Prlić.  The Appeal Judgement is expected by November.  When all is said and done, it will have taken over 13 years from the time the accused turned themselves over to the ICTY to the conclusion of the appeal proceedings.

What a journey!  Lawyers, assistants, investigators, and interns have come and gone.  Babies born, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers departed. Heart attacks suffered, kidneys replaced, weight gained, hair lost. Engagements, affairs, marriages, and divorces. And wrinkles, lots of wrinkles. No one spared. Continue reading “And the waiting goes on …”

Share

Bosniak Member of the BiH Presidency asks the ICJ to reconsider the Serbia Genocide Case

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”1 Perhaps the most memorable and exquisite quote of American professional baseball player, manager, coach, and Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra.

On 23 February 2017, it was reported that “Bosnia” filed a formal request with the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) to reconsider its 2007 decision in the Serbia Genocide case, in which it found that Serbia had neither been involved in nor committed genocide. The ICJ did however find, curiously, that Serbia “violated the obligation to prevent genocide, under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in respect of the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica.”2 International Court of Justice (“ICJ”), Case Concerning Application of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of The Crime of Genocide, Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, Judgment, 26 February 2007, para. 471.

Bakir Izetbegović

Bosnia and Herzegovina (“BiH”), the actual name of the country, did not file for reconsideration.  What was submitted to the ICJ – which has yet to be made public3Last checked 7 March 2017, the ICJ public record does not show the application filed on the 23rd of February 2017. – was a unilateral request by one of the three members of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović (the son of Alija Izetbegović), currently serving as the Bosniak member of the Presidency of BiH.

Some facts may be useful to understand why this request indubitably is a political ploy, a publicity stunt, not a legitimate request that merits consideration by the ICJ. Continue reading “Bosniak Member of the BiH Presidency asks the ICJ to reconsider the Serbia Genocide Case”

Share

Footnotes   [ + ]

The ADC-ICTY Evolves into an Association of Defense Counsel Practicing before International Courts and Tribunals

On 16 December 2016, the Association of Defence Counsel Practising before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, commonly referred to as the ADC-ICTY, held a second General Assembly Meeting.  The agenda had one item only: amending the ADC-ICTY Constitution to change the name of the ADC-ICTY to better reflect its function – effectively transforming it into an association for defense counsel practicing before international tribunals and courts. And so the ADC-ICTY Constitution was amended. Continue reading “The ADC-ICTY Evolves into an Association of Defense Counsel Practicing before International Courts and Tribunals”

Share

Review of Justice Richard Goldstone’s 16 November Lecture on the ICC’s Current Challenges

Justice Richard Goldstone
Justice Richard Goldstone

Last night, 16 November 2016, Justice Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (ICTY and ICTR), delivered the second lecture in the joint lecture series co-hosted by Temple Garden Chambers (TGC) and the British Embassy. His lecture, fittingly titled The International Criminal Court – Current Challenges, was a sobering reminder on just how political and politicized international courts are, starting with his own appointment as ICTY and ICTR Prosecutor (members of the UN Security Council could not agree on a prosecutor primarily over petty political and sometimes retaliatory reasons). Continue reading “Review of Justice Richard Goldstone’s 16 November Lecture on the ICC’s Current Challenges”

Share

The MICT model: panacea or chimera?

On 20 September 2016 a press release was issued by the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (“MICT”), also referred to as “the Mechanism”, describing a presentation given by MICT President Judge Theodor Meron at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. The press release described President Meron’s view that the MICT presented itself as a new model for international justice. Under this model, courts could be more streamlined and cost-effective by having a roster of judges on call who would step into the breach only when needed, as opposed to being in situ, collecting a full-time salary with benefits. This model is likely the brave new world and is being advocated by some who are looking for alternatives or complements to the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). Continue reading “The MICT model: panacea or chimera?”

Share

Crimes Against Humanity – Part III: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?

Part III

This is the third and final post dealing with the call for submissions by International Co-Investigating Judge Michael Bohlander of the ECCC who is currently investigating Cases 003 and 004.   Querying whether there was a lacuna in defining who may form a “civilian population” for the purpose of crimes against humanity, Judge Bohlander asked the parties and the amici:

Whether, under customary international law applicable between 1975 and 1979 [the temporal jurisdiction of the ECCC], an attack by a state or organisation against members of its own armed forces may amount to an attack directed at a civilian population?

As I noted in the first post, Judge Bohlander hinted that previous discussion on interpreting who constitutes a “civilian population” may have overlooked policy aspects such as whether there is a distinction between soldiers and civilians, and that such distinction “might only make sense if speaking of soldiers and civilians of an enemy population.”  He then opined or concluded – at least so it appears from his words – that “it would seem beyond dispute that a regime which in peace times tried to cleanse its own armed forces of, for example, all soldiers holding a particular ethnicity or faith, would be engaging in crimes against humanity, because the victims’ combatant quality merely because they are soldiers would be entirely irrelevant in this context…” and that “there is no reason to think otherwise if such a campaign happened in the course of or otherwise connected to an armed conflict.”(para. 5)

The first post dealt with the contextual background relevant to Judge Bohlander’s question and provided a synopsis of the overarching arguments put forward by the International Co-Prosecutor (“ICP”) and the amici who responded to the call for submissions.  Positions of the majority were relatively the same:  a state or organization’s own forces can constitute a civilian population for the purposes of crimes against humanity. The second post covers the amici’s and ICP’s arguments in detail though a series of questions inherent in their arguments.

In this final post, I set out the rationale behind the civilian population requirement and argue: Continue reading “Crimes Against Humanity – Part III: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?”

Share

Crimes Against Humanity — Part II: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?

Part II

In the previous post I introduced the question raised by Judge Bohlander, the International Co-Investigating Judge for the ECCC, in his call for submissions: “whether, under customary international law applicable between 1975 and 1979 [the temporal jurisdiction of the ECCC], an attack by a state or organisation against members of its own armed forces may amount to an attack directed at a civilian population” for the purposes of crimes against humanity.  After setting out the context and relevance for posing this question, I provided a brief synopsis of the submissions.

In this post, I will deal the overarching arguments put forward by the amici and International Co-Prosecutor (“ICP”) in submitting that under customary international law between 1975 and 1979, a state or organization’s own armed forces can constitute a civilian population for the purposes of crimes against humanity. I will do so by answering the questions that emerge from their arguments, which I listed in the previous post.

  1. In customary international law, is the term “civilian population” given a broad interpretation to include members of a state’s own armed forces? And would excluding soldiers from the definition of “civilian population” lead to an “absurd result”?

Answer: no and no. Continue reading “Crimes Against Humanity — Part II: Is an attack by a state or organization against members of its own armed forces an attack directed against a civilian population amounting to a crime against humanity?”

Share

Ahmed al Faqi al Mahdi’s trial or slow change of plea hearing at the ICC?

Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi
Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi

On 22 August 2016, Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi entered a guilty plea before the Trial Chamber for destruction of cultural monuments in the UNESCO world heritage site in Timbuktu, Mali.1Prosecutor v. Al Mahdi, ICC-01/12-01/15-T, Video Recording of the Admission of Guilt, 22 August 2016, available at https://www.icc-cpi.int/mali/al-mahdi. Despite having admitted to the crimes charged, the case proceeded to a two-day trial.  The judgement and sentence are expected by 27 September 2016.2Prosecutor v. Al Mahdi, ICC-01/12-01/15-T-6-ENG, Transcript of the Trial Hearing, 24 August 2016, available at https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/record.aspx?docNo=ICC-01/12-01/15-T-6-ENG.

Interesting as it may be to debate the merits of going after the likes of Al Mahdi and the significance of this case (see e.g., Mark Kersten in Justice in Conflict (2 posts) or Owen Bowcott’s article in The Guardian), I am interested in the trial. Or is it a trial? After all, Al Mahdi pled guilty, acknowledged the factual matrix in the charging document as accurately reflecting his conduct, and voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently (understandingly) waived guaranteed fair trial rights, in particular the rights to be presumed innocent, against self-incrimination, and to have the prosecution prove each charge against him beyond a reasonable doubt.

So what is there to try?  Why put Al Mahdi through the crucible of having to retell that which presumably he has already told the Prosecutor or force him to effectively prove his guilt (having entered a guilty plea, there is a presumption that Al Mahdi is guilty) for the crimes for which he has already accepted responsibility and for which he is willing to bear the consequences? Continue reading “Ahmed al Faqi al Mahdi’s trial or slow change of plea hearing at the ICC?”

Share

Footnotes   [ + ]