During the first appearance of a Tuareg rebel before the ICC for cultural war crimes allegedly committed in Mali, the sitting judge indicated that measures would be taken to speed up the proceedings – one of several important initiatives being implemented to shorten the length of ICC cases.
During last week’s hearing, Judge Cuno Tarfusser outlined his desire to expedite the proceedings against Ahmad al Faqi al Mahdi.
The first was to use his discretion under Regulation 34 of the Court’s regulations to limit the usual 21 days granted to parties to reply to filed documents to a five day maximum.
The second was indicate that so-called interlocutory appeals – the parties’ right to appeal decisions other than final judgements as set out in article 82 of the ICC Rome Statute – must be seen as an “exceptional remedy” and that the Chamber will have a restrictive interpretation of the article in the Al Faqi case.
The third was to schedule the hearing to decide whether to send the case to trial – the confirmation of charges – for 18 January 2016, in an effort to shorten the length of time from the suspects’ first appearance hearing. Meanwhile, the deadline for all documents to be disclosed to the defense was set for 18/19 December 2015.
Delivering justice, faster
These measures follow the Court’s ‘Pre-Trial Manual of best practices’ endorsed by Judges earlier this month. The manual seeks to turn lessons learned in the first decade of ICC activity to tangible efficiencies of the pre-trial process and is part of a larger effort started in 2012 as the first ICC trial was concluding. The Court, as well as its governing body, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), agreed that sufficient practice had been developed for a substantive review to take place of the Court’s judicial process.
In early 2012, the Court’s judiciary undertook a lessons-learned exercise that identified areas in the Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) that might be amended in order to improve efficiency. The Court’s Working Group on Lessons Learned continues to build on the exercise and, under the leadership of ICC President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, works closely with the ASP.
Criticisms of drawn out courtroom proceedings have long dogged international criminal tribunals—and ICC is no exception. While later trials have been speedier, from start to finish the proceedings the ICC’s first case, against Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, took some six years.
A measure of feet-finding was to be expected for the Court’s first trials. It now vital that their duration is significantly reduced to bolster confidence in the Rome Statute system of justice. The Coalition has for many years been advocating for increased efficiencies and effectiveness the Court’s judicial processes.
Have your say – what else can be done to expedite international justice processes?
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