The ICC's Office of the Prosecutor and intermediaries: a controversial relationship

11 March 2015 by Tjitske Lingsma, The Hague (The Netherlands)

This is the second in a series of articles delving into the challenges faced by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court. In our last issue [IJT-176], Tjitske Lingsma explored why the ICC seems afflicted by untruthful witnesses. In the third article, we examine the growing importance of technological evidence, like phone records and computer data, to reduce the reliance on witness testimony.

ICC judges in Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui case on a visit to Ituri in January 2012 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
Image caption: 
ICC judges in Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui case on a visit to Ituri in January 2012 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)

The term ‘intermediaries’ has littered nearly all trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has been relying on locals in its cases to contact witnesses. This practice of using these intermediaries has proved to be problematic, experts say. Several intermediaries have also been suspected by judges of influencing witnesses.

ICC cases so far reveal how the OTP has sought to undertake short investigative missions and to depend on local intermediaries for their contacts with witnesses. The OTP’s investigators barely set foot in Kenya during its first years of investigating six Kenyans, says Caroline Buisman, lawyer for journalist Joshua Sang. “Investigators came sporadically and instead of conducting their own independent investigations, they relied on … human rights reports,” she tells IJT. Security concerns kept the prosecution from travelling to Darfur.

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