What is Left of the Victims Right to Select Counsel?

Trial Chamber IV of the International Criminal Court, ICC, recently ordered that in the Sudan case currently moving towards trial, two lawyers will be representing all victims at the court.  The case, against alleged rebel leaders Abdallah Banda Aadaker Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, is proceeding to trial on the following charges:

  • violence to life, whether committed or attempted, within the meaning of article 8(2)(c)(i) of the Statute;
  • intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission within the meaning of article 8(2)(e)(iii) of the Statute; and
  • pillaging within the meaning of article 8(2)(e)(v) of the Statute.

The court had previously confirmed the charges, a proceeding roughly equivalent to a probable cause hearing.  The question now, is can two lawyers adequately represent the victims in the case?  A question previously pondered here.   The court in the Bemba case, which has by far the largest number of victims, over 1,600 so far, started the trend by ordering two lawyers from the Central African Republic should be appointed as counsel.

Article 75 of the Rome Statute gave victims a right to seek reparations:

Article 75
Reparations to victims
1. The Court shall establish principles relating to reparations to, or in respect of, victims,
including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. On this basis, in its decision
the Court may, either upon request or on its own motion in exceptional circumstances,
determine the scope and extent of any damage, loss and injury to, or in respect of,
victims and will state the principles on which it is acting.
2. The Court may make an order directly against a convicted person specifying
appropriate reparations to, or in respect of, victims, including restitution,
compensation and rehabilitation.
Where appropriate, the Court may order that the award for reparations be made
through the Trust Fund provided for in article 79.
3. Before making an order under this article, the Court may invite and shall take account
of representations from or on behalf of the convicted person, victims, other interested
persons or interested States.
4. In exercising its power under this article, the Court may, after a person is convicted of
a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court, determine whether, in order to give effect
to an order which it may make under this article, it is necessary to seek measures
under article 93, paragraph 1.
5. A State Party shall give effect to a decision under this article as if the provisions of
article 109 were applicable to this article.
6. Nothing in this article shall be interpreted as prejudicing the rights of victims under
national or international law.

Article 68, Paragraph 3 gives the victims a right to participate and to counsel during the proceedings:

Where the personal interests of the victims are affected, the Court shall permit their
views and concerns to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings
determined to be appropriate by the Court and in a manner which is not prejudicial to or
inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial. Such views and
concerns may be presented by the legal representatives of the victims where the Court
considers it appropriate, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence.

The ongoing question to be resolved will be, does the court’s practice of appointing very few lawyers prejudice that right?  Will the lawyers who undertake the responsibility be given the resources and opportunities to maintain proper contact with their clients?

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, has jurisdiction in the 118 nations that have signed on to the Treaty of Rome, or over their citizens, or in case referred to it by the U.N. Security Council, so far Libya and Darfur.  The court investigates charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide occurring within its jurisdiction since the founding of the court which was in 2002.

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