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Witnesses before the International Criminal Court

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image of The Law & Practice of International Courts and Tribunals

It is an established rule of international law that all witnesses shall testify at the seat of the court. The witness scheme of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a complex one which provides for direct and indirect judicial authority over witnesses. This article grabbles with the complexities of the ICC procedural rules with regard to witnesses, concentrating on three components in the ICC witness scheme: testimony, cooperation and protection. Part I of this article examines the general rule of witness testimony before the Court and different alternatives for the giving of testimonial evidence when a witness cannot be present before the Court. The ICC's powers to compel witnesses are extremely limited and it is forced to rely on traditional legal assistance such as depositions. Part II discusses the exercise of indirect judicial authority by the Court through the assistance of States in relation to witnesses. It analyses provisions on State cooperation with witnesses, national implementing legislation with regard to witnesses and assesses the effectiveness of this legislation. The subsequent practice of State Parties as reflected by their implementing legislation on witnesses proves that a consistent practice does not exist. This section also examines the cooperation between the ICC and international organisations as regards witnesses. Part III examines the ICC Witness Protection Scheme; it looks at the ways in which witnesses are protected and it cites the practice of other tribunals. It then looks at the ICC's Victims and Witness Unit vis-à-vis the policies and mechanisms in place.

Affiliations: 1: PhD candidate; General Teaching Assistant Constitutional Law, University of Leeds, UK


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