International Criminal Justice

International Criminal Justice

Legitimacy and Coherence

Edited by Gideon Boas, William A. Schabas and Michael P. Scharf

International criminal justice as a discipline throws up numerous conceptual issues, engaging disciplines such as law, politics, history, sociology and psychology, to name but a few. This book addresses themes around international criminal justice from a mixture of traditional and more radical perspectives.

Chapter 2: Order in the courtroom: the unique challenge of maintaining control of a war crimes trial

Michael P Scharf

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, terrorism and security


International war crimes trials are inherently messy, especially when former leaders invoke the right of self-representation in order to advance a political agenda that goes beyond defending themselves on the charges against them. Since the turn of the century, we have seen Slobodan Milo_evic´, Vojislav _e_elj and Radovan Karad_ic´ at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), and Saddam Hussein at the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) use self-representation in various ways to disrupt and delay the proceedings.1 Of all the modern war crimes trials, Saddam Hussein’s behaviour was perhaps the most creatively disruptive. A month after the conclusion of the Saddam Hussein trial in September 2006, the author was invited by Luis Moreno Ocampo, the then Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to speak to his staff in The Hague about the lessons from the Saddam Hussein trial concerning maintaining order in the courtroom during a war crimes trial. Subsequently, the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs asked the author to present a video lecture on this topic for inclusion in the UN Audio Visual Library of International Law.2 Drawn from my ICC and UN lectures, this chapter examines some of history’s previous messy trials and the strategies judges have employed with varying degrees of success to respond to disruptive conduct by trial participants. It then describes the various tactics employed by the judges in Saddam Hussein and analyses why they were not more successful.

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