Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Bartram S. Brown
Chapter 12: Self-representation of the accused before international tribunals
: an absolute right or a qualified privilege? Michael P. Scharf INTRODUCTION Echoing the wording of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),1 the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and all of the other modern war crimes tribunals provide that the defendant has the right ‘to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing’.2 Relying on this language, former leaders standing trial for war crimes often seek to act as their own lawyers in order to transform the proceedings into a political stage.3 Is this a necessary evil attendant to the right to a fair trial under conventional and customary international law, as Judge Richard May, who presided over the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, concluded? 4 Or can the Covenant, customary international law and the Statutes of the international tribunals be read as permitting a war crimes tribunal to appoint counsel over the objections of the defendant, as the ICTR held in the Barayagwiza case?5 How war crimes tribunals answer this question in the future will have a significant effect on their ability to contribute to peace, reconciliation and the rule of law by establishing a historic record of atrocities committed by the former regime that is accepted by the target 1 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19 December 1996, 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR), art. 14(3)(d) (‘In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be entitled ... to be tried...
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