On 16 November 2017, the last in a series of four ICTY Legacy Lectures was held at Leiden University’s Hague campus. The lecture, entitled “The Story of ICTY Chambers: Behind the scenes insights into trial and appeal proceedings”, provided a unique opportunity to hear an “insider’s” perspective from ICTY Chambers staff members and to learn about their individual experiences through their tenures.
Following an introduction to the lecture by Professor Carsten Stahn on behalf of the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, ICTY President Carmel Agius provided welcoming remarks. The President spoke of his experiences over 16 years as a Judge of the ICTY, noting his impressions “of being part of something very new and exciting” and the key features of Chambers work. President Agius further highlighted the teamwork aspect unique to ICTY Chambers as compared to domestic systems, explaining that “In Chambers, our main task is to draft judgements and decisions, and this is very intense and often time-sensitive. It is a discipline that requires teamwork, coordination, camaraderie, time-management, attention to detail and, obviously, outstanding legal and analytical skills.”
The panel was moderated by Mr Jonas Nilsson, Senior Legal Officer in Trial Chamber I of the ICTY, and composed of Mr Amir Čengić and Ms Valérie Gabard, Legal Officers in the ICTY Appeals Chamber, Mr Christopher Lentz, Legal Officer in the Office of the ICTY President, and Dr Rosalynd Roberts, Legal Officer in Trial Chamber I. Before introducing the main topics for discussion, Mr Nilsson noted that Chambers staff rarely have the opportunity to speak publicly about the nature of their work, given the confidentiality of Judges’ deliberations.
Ms Gabard addressed the length of proceedings before the ICTY and criticisms derived therefrom, acknowledging that “the Judges have been the first concerned” about this issue and that “a number of mechanisms…have been put into place over the years to ensure that the complexity of ICTY cases does not go against expeditiousness”. Dr Roberts explained how the pioneering work of the ICTY in the practice of admission of evidence is “a legacy unto itself” that other courts and tribunals should consider. Mr Čengić outlined the general process of writing trial judgements and processing evidence, emphasising that every Chamber has different working methods but that it is necessary to start the judgement drafting process as early as possible, given the complexity and nature of international criminal trials. Finally, Mr Lentz emphasised the importance of ensuring that the summaries of Tribunal judgements that are read out in court are easily understandable to the wide range of interested audiences, and how Chambers therefore “play an important part of communicating the Tribunal’s work to the general public”.
The ICTY Legacy Lectures were organised in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, with each lecture telling the story of a different organ of the Tribunal and the Defence. The lectures formed part of the ongoing ICTY Legacy Dialogues series of legacy and closing events.