The Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Mr. Adama Dieng, has discharged Mr. Andrew McCartan, (United Kingdom) a solicitor from Scotland, as lead Counsel of Mr. Joseph Nzirorera after having found evidence of inflation of legal bills and other financial irregularities.
Mr. Nzirorera, formerly President of the Rwandan National Assembly and Secretary General of the Mouvement Révolutionnaire et National pour le Développement (MRND), the largest political party in Rwanda, had applied in July 2001 for the withdrawal of Mr. McCartan and his Belgian Co-Counsel Mr. Martin Bauwens from his case on the ground that he had lost confidence in them.
By a Decision of 3 October 2001 Trial Chamber II of the Tribunal, by a majority, denied that application and directed the Registry to examine fee-splitting matters, including allegations which had been made in this case. Nzirorera appealed against the refusal to withdraw Messrs. McCartan and Bouwens. Pending the determination of the appeal the Registry proceeded with the investigation.
The Appeals Chamber dismissed the appeal on 1 February 2002 on the basis that there was no right of interlocutory appeal against a decision concerning issues of the assignment or withdrawal of assignment of counsel. However, noting that there appeared to have been a complete breakdown of communication between Nzirorera and his Counsel, the Appeals Chamber considered that it was for the Registrar to inquire speedily into whether there had in fact been such a breakdown and to take any appropriate action.
Today’s decision states that “the investigation conducted by the Registry … revealed evidence supporting, inter alia, that Lead Counsel in the particular instance, has inflated his bills of October and November 2000 and did provide his Legal Assistant with pre-signed blank forms for submission and re-imbursement of expenses”. That behaviour constituted a serious violation of the Code of Professional Conduct for Defence Counsel.
The decision therefore removes Mr. McCartan from the case and notes that he will no longer be eligible for assignment as Counsel for any person accused before the Tribunal. The assignment of Mr. Bauwens as co-counsel also withdrawn and the Presidents of their respective Law Societies were informed of the decision.
Commenting on the Decision Mr. Dieng reiterated that the Registry will remain vigilant in the administration of the Tribunal’s legal aid scheme in order to ensure that high professional and ethical standards were maintained in the defence of persons accused before the ICTR and said that abuses of the Tribunal’s legal aid system would not be tolerated.
The United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) issued a report on the question of fee-splitting in both of the ad hoc international tribunals in February 2001 and a follow-up report is expected shortly.