I spent the summer of 2008 working for the Defense Council of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands. I received the position through the School of Law's special application process with the Defense.
When I arrived in The Hague, I was assigned to work on the defense team of Mr. Bruno Stojić, one of the six co-accused in the Prlić et al. case. Lead counsel for Mr. Stojić is Ms. Senka Nozica of Bosnia and co-counsel is Mr. Karim Khan of England. All of the co-accused in Prlić are Croats or Bosnian Croats accused of war crimes against Bosnian Muslims in conjunction with their positions as high-ranking officials in the radical Croat party, the HVO. Mr. Stojić specifically was head of the defense department of the HVO. The scope of the case is gigantic: the case has been on-going for over two years, and Mr. Prlić’s defense just began in May. Mr. Stojić’s defense, second in line of the co-accused, will likely not begin until September or October.
Because of the stage of the Prlić et al. case, much of what I worked on was organizational, preparing us for our defense’s opening arguments and to write the final brief. My on-going fallback project was classifying exhibits. I went through testimony of key witnesses and examined/classified exhibits that were tendered during their testimony. I summarized these exhibits into a large chart which will make for easier reference in a later stage of the trial.
I also worked on a number of research projects related to the final brief and for motions for the Haraqia contempt case, for which Mr. Khan is lead counsel. My research pertained to advocacy ethics, equality of arms, specificity of the indictment, defense obligation to disclose, and attempt as a lesser included offense. I used Westlaw/Lexis, the JDB (ICTY judicial database), and reference books in ICTY’s library. I had a short project summarizing and analyzing the testimony of a classified witness and making a binder with all relevant materials related to him for easy reference. My most substantial project of the summer was writing a motion for provisional release. I used the skeleton of an old motion and updated it using new medical documents. I was pleased that Mr. Stojić was granted provisional release for ten days for the summer recess.
I did most of my work from the main ICTY building, although different defense teams were scattered throughout the city. Some teams had their own offices where they worked full time. My team had a separate office, but it was not fully-functional and I preferred to work in the main building. There was also a “beach building” where many interns worked because of the small size of the Defense office in the main building. Depending on my assignment, it was also sometimes possible to work from home. My first two weeks were spent almost exclusively at home reading the indictment and relevant documents and transcripts to get me up to speed on the case. I knew nothing about the conflict in the former Yugoslavia before I came to ICTY and since my case had two years of history, there was much to catch up on.
Also because of the large size of the case, I was not able to go to court. Of the three courtrooms at ICTY, only one was even feasibly large enough for me to sit in during trial. Each accused has two attorneys plus legal assistants, case managers, etc. with interns at the bottom of the totem pole. There physically was not space for me in court unless someone who was normally there was absent. During the last week of our trial before the summer recess I was planning on going to court because our lead counsel was out of town. Our co-counsel approved this, but that same day we finished with a witness and broke for summer recess early instead. Although I was disappointed never to make it into the courtroom, I could attend the viewing gallery or watch the trial on my computer or on the television in the Defense room.
Overall I was really pleased with my experience at ICTY this summer. It was a particularly interesting and exciting time to be at ICTY with the reversal of Naser Orić’s conviction, acquittal of Ljube Boškoski, and capture of Radovan Karadžić. Karadžić’s capture, while effectively destroying the completion strategy for the Tribunal, means there will be plenty of exciting things to work on at ICTY in the future. Working at an international tribunal is a great way to spend the summer, particularly for someone interested in international criminal law.