The Registrar of the International Criminal Court, Herman Von Hebel spoke to Rosemary Tollo about proposed change for the better
NAIROBI, Kenya — ReVision project is also looking into areas such as assistance and support to the defence, field operations and field presence, outreach, state co-operation and external relations, information management, and internal communication.
The Registrar of the International Criminal Court, Herman Von Hebel spoke to Rosemary Tollo about proposed change for the better.
Q: You are undertaking a major reorganisation of the ICC Registry. Explain the need for change.
A: Change is desperately needed in order to make a more effective and efficient Registry, especially in dealing with victims.
Over the past 12 years of the court’s existence, we have learned many lessons and we need to ask ourselves whether the current organisational design, policies and practices of the Registry meet the needs of those that we serve.
And the feedback from Registry staff, clients and partners indicates that things could be organised in a better way. There is just too much fragmentation and overlaps in some areas while we need to reinforce the Registry’s operations in others.
One of the main things we are looking at is the assistance and support to victims and their representatives. Victims are often confused and frustrated by the numerous actors from different parts of the court who contact them or seek to represent them — VPRS, OPCV, CSS, PIDS (Outreach), TFV.
Even as ICC Registrar, I am sometimes completely lost as to who does what, when and where. How can we then expect the victims to understand this complex system? Clearly, we must create a more coherent, consolidated and effective structure to support victims and facilitate their legal representation.
The ReVision project is also looking into areas such as assistance and support to the defence, field operations and field presence, outreach, state co-operation and external relations, information management, and internal communication. The goal is to make the Registry more dynamic, effective and efficient in order to service our clients to the best of our ability.
Q: How will the changes you are contemplating affect the victims?
A: The changes will strengthen the support that the Registry provides to victims and provide a better support structure for their participation in the proceedings.
As a first step, I am proposing to consolidate functions performed in several Registry offices into a Victims Office. There are just too many different parts of the court that often work independently in their contact with the victims.
This has to change, and we have received support from a number of parties, including common legal representatives who have direct substantive experience in representing victims before the court. Victims are confused and frustrated with the multiple actors. We need to organise these actors. A single Victims Office is the best way to achieve that.
This office will handle the entire victim participation — from the collection of applications to the provision of information and updates on the cases in the field to the actual representation in court.
There will be a pool of independent lawyers within the office available for assignment to groups of victims at all times, much like a Public Defender’s Office.
There will also be a second counsel assigned to every case for the duration of that case. That counsel would typically be based in the situation country to ensure closer ties and communication with the victims but will be an integral part of the team.
We also foresee a reinforcement of our field offices, which will play a central role in the provision of assistance and support to victims and their legal representatives.
We are addressing reorganisation from a number of important angles. I am convinced that this system, if adopted, would enable a more robust and better support structure for the participation of victims.
Q: Concerns are being raised about the proposed changes, including the possibility that they could leave defendants and victims insufficiently represented given the budget cuts. Are the concerns valid?
A: The proposal to establish a single Victims Office is not intended to save money.
Indeed, victims are the primary beneficiary of the proposed changes. The consolidation of functions will simply enable us to pool existing resources in support of victims, thereby rendering their participation in proceedings more effective and meaningful.
It is my responsibility to ensure the Registry supports victim participation, as well as the defence and other functions, in the best possible way.
If we do not create such an office, the problems being created now will only accumulate and make this an even more pressing issue.
Q: What can be done to increase field autonomy for the common legal representatives, given the budget cuts challenges? For instance, a legal representative’s complaints point to micromanagement by the Registry.
A: The structure that I am proposing will address this.
The perception of micromanagement is due to the fact that common legal representatives are often assigned under the court’s legal aid scheme. This means all their fees and expenses are vetted by the Registry to ensure that they are reasonable and necessary, including the approval of field missions and other activities. This is rather frustrating to counsel.
Counsel would become more independent operationally as they would no longer be remunerated under the legal aid scheme, which requires an hourly accounting of work. The pool of in-house counsel, functioning as a Public Defender’s Office, will be joined by “external” counsel for each new case.
The external counsel would be retained either as a temporary staff member or a consultant for the duration of the case. That way, counsel’s remuneration would not depend on the approval by the Registry of counsel’s activities. Counsel would be fully independent and their performance subject only to the Code of Professional Conduct.
All the support that counsel requires in the performance of their representation duties will be available within the Registry. There will be a coherent support structure — including legal assistants, case managers, field assistants and other support staff — who will be at the disposal of counsel, including field staff to support counsel’s activities on the ground.
Q: When will the proposed changes come into effect and what effect are they likely to have on the ongoing cases?
A: We have started implementing some of the structural changes. However, the changes in the areas of victims and defence, in particular the creation of a Victims Office and a Defence Office, require an amendment of the Regulations of the Court and, therefore, the approval of the court’s judges. This, inevitably, takes some time.
I have already briefed the judges on the proposals and I am preparing a proposal for amendments to the regulations of the court.
Q: How does the Registry respond to the political onslaught against the Kenyan cases that might affect the victims?
A: The ICC is a court of law and cannot get involved in politics.