Defence in unfamiliar territory

24 April 2006 by HEIKELINA VERRIJN STUART

When Dutch ad hoc defence counsel Tjarda van der Spoel, who was assigned to the DRC case on August 1, 2005, arrived at the ICC building in The Hague, he was not too sure what his role would be. He had to hand in his passport to get an ICC badge and was accompanied throughout the building by a security guard. He did not have a room where he could hang his coat and put on his robe. For reasons of confidentiality he was not allowed to electronically file submissions from outside the building. But, Van der Spoel told IJT, "everybody I met in the huge white building on Maanweg was friendly enough and willing to cooperate."

Before the first accused had even appeared in the ICTY courtroom ten years ago, Richard Goldstone, the first chief prosecutor said: "In order to ensure that these trials, particularly the first trial, are viewed as fair by the international community, there must be equality of arms." But it would take years and the stubborn tenacity of many defence lawyers at the UN tribunals to lay the conditions for independence, security, disclosure, payment and work space that allow for this "equality" and guarantee something nearing a fair trial. ICC Registrar Bruno Cathala is echoing Goldstone's words when he repeatedly says "without a quality defence there will not be quality justice at the international court."

Still not, in fact, the third pillar of ICC

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