The International Criminal Court has called on members of the Australian legal profession to join its list of counsel. The stimulating environment and cases may attract many lawyers, but the selection process is stringent and lawyers could find themselves “called on at any time” to provide legal assistance.
Lawyers would be attracted to the prospect of working with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on various levels, the Law Council of Australia president Bob Gotterson QC told Lawyers Weekly.
The types of cases the court deals with would be interesting from both a legal and a humanitarian perspective, Gotterson said. Some cases “will involve masterminds of various alleged atrocities around the world”.
“It would be a very stimulating environment because you would have the opportunity to work with lawyers from all corners of the globe,” he said.
The ICC would adopt procedures that involve elements of both the common law and civil law traditions.“For Australian lawyers there would be an exposure to how the civil law procedures work,” Gotterson said, which would apparently also explain the court’s attraction for lawyers.
But candidates wishing to take up the invitation will find they need “considerable” practice experience, and extensive competence and skills, Gotterson said. Candidates have been asked by the court to only apply if they demonstrate competence in international or criminal law and procedure, “as well as the necessary relevant experience, whether as judge, prosecutor, advocate or in other similar capacity in criminal proceedings”.
The Court also pointed out that counsel who were added to the list “can be called on at any time” to provide legal assistance to those involved in proceedings before the Court.
Gotterson acknowledged these requirements. Although he was unable to state how much lawyers could expect to be paid, he said “the time expectations could be considerable” and counsel will often be expected to dedicate themselves entirely to a particular case.
Explaining the beginnings of the Court, which was established on the 17 July 1998 under an international convention called the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Gotterson said the ICC was created after 120 countries in the United Nations adopted the statute. Australia ratified the statute in July 2002.
It is a permanent court, Gotterson explained, and its purpose is to promote the rule of law, “but also to ensure the greatest international crimes don’t go unpunished”.
Pressed as to why the ICC is only now inviting members of the Australian legal profession to join its counsel, Gotterson explained that the court had to “get up and working”, and up to this point there had been only ad hoc tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The Court was a recognition that there was a need for a permanent court, and for it to function it needed lawyers to provide their services, Gotterson said.
Asked whether the recent invite to the Australian legal profession and the new permanence of the court had anything to do with the war on terror, Gotterson said atrocities that are the result of terrorism “certainly would be matters that the ICC deals with, but it’s not exclusively for this reason”.
The timing of the invitation had not been provoked by any particular matter, but was more a matter of the Court being prepared when there was a demand for its services, Gotterson said.