Listeners suggested we should talk more to defence counsel for our podcast. So we thought ‘Go big or go home’ and we got three of the top defence lawyers at the International Criminal Court : Melinda Taylor, Mylène Dimitri and Marie-Hélène Proulx.
They are all very busy women: Melinda and Marie-Hélène are running the defence of the ICC’s second Mali suspect Al-Hassan and Mylène is lead counsel for Alfred Yekatom in the CAR II case, which we discussed in our September 27 Justice Update.
Getting all of them in the same room was a challenge but we managed — only to find out that Stephanie forgot Radio Basics 101 and there was a mad dash to get a memory card for our recorder. Luckily as you will hear, being a defence counsel at the ICC prepares you for working on a shoestring budget and quick changes of circumstances, so our superstar defence team was unfazed.
Our discussion about the challenges of being a female ICC defence counsel quickly turned into a talk about the general hurdles of being a defence counsel at the ICC. Where by the later years the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had pretty much ironed out how to work with the professional defence teams, at the ICC still looks on defence with mistrust, they feel. They say the late disclosure of evidence, redactions to witness statements and the number of secret filings are interfering with their clients ’rights to a fair trial.
After our podcast was reported Mylene Dimitri told judges during the Yekatom and Ngaissona confirmation of charges hearing that secrecy from the prosecution meant she was working “in the dark”. In the Al-Hassan case the secrecy also continued as judges confirmed the majority of the charges against the Mali suspect but would not release the document with the charges they confirmed to the public.
If you haven’t had enough yet of fair trial questions and suspects’ rights check out Melinda’s recommended viewing of the Netflix documentary When They See Us about five men known as the Central Park Five jailed over the 1989 rape and assault of a New York jogger but exonerated in 2002.
After we wrapped up our morning recording, our defence lawyers suggested it would be good to do this again with some drinks for an Asymmetrical Haircuts’ Friday Wine Down edition. To be continued.