Time to Move the ICC?

by Julian Ku

This op-ed by a former ICTY and ICTR prosecutor argues that the ICC should move, at least some of their hearings and trials, to locations closer to the site of the alleged crimes. In the case of the ICC, this means spending some of the $600 million it has spent so far on facilities in Africa, where all of its current prosecutions are taking place.

The Hague. . .is more than 6,000 kilometers away. Systematically holding trials at that distance makes no sense. Criminal justice in practice is an intensively face-to-face business, regardless of characterization of the crimes. Witnesses need to be found, interviewed and often persuaded to cooperate in a process that they may not entirely trust. Consultations with local communities are indispensable to obtain a breadth of views on who is most culpable.

This seems like a reasonable argument. although I don’t think distance is the biggest problem with the ICC’s prosecutions. Still, how would a move work? Getting the ICC’s staff to leave the comfortable confines of the Hague and move to, say, Kampala, will not be an easy sell. I suppose the ICTR might have some extra space in Tanzania.


4 Responses

  1. The Hague also has its advantages, as demonstrated by the SCSL’s decision to move the trial of Charles Taylor there.

  2. The op-ed is a bit puzzling. Under the ICC Rules of Evidence and Procedure, the Court can choose to sit outside of the Hague in a particular case. Thus far, no one has moved for this for any of the pending cases, but given the rule, I am not certain what the benefit would be to move the court as a whole (Chambers, Registry etc.,) to Tanzania.

    The ICC also deserves some credit in that it has gone way beyond the ICTY and ICTR in terms of outreach. It has set up outreach offices all over Africa, with two offices in Congo, I believe.

    Lastly, one of the reasons the ICC proceedings have been progressing so slowly is the Prosecutor has requested that a majority of the witnesses for the Congo trials be put into protection. Wouldn’t witness protection be even more of an issue were the Court to move from the Hague?

  3. It has to be headquartered somewhere. This makes no less sense for the ICC than for any other global organization.

  4. Eh, the the lawyers will go pretty much anywhere, unless it means being under, you know, live fire or something like that. I’ve heard Hague people complain about the clinical environment and stuffy atmosphere of the city. Methinks they might not find, say, Kampala quite so stuffy.

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