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The Registrar has sole authority to assign counsel

In a decision in Prosecutor vs. Jerome Bicamumpaka Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has stated that it cannot instruct the Registrar to assign a specific lawyer to his case.

The Trial Chamber, composed of Judges William H. Sekule (Tanzania), presiding, Pavel Dolenc (Slovenia) and Mehmet Güney (Turkey) considered that, since the Registrar had not yet completed his inquiries into the accused’s alleged indigence and had therefore taken no decision on whether or not to assign counsel, it was not competent to deal with the matter.

In the Decision the Trial Chamber reviewed previous decisions on the assignment of counsel and said that it was for the Registrar to exercise his discretion either to assign Counsel to the accused or to deny him Counsel. The Registrar had to take into account various factors including "the resources of the Tribunal, competence and recognized experience of Counsel, geographical distribution [and] a balance of the principal legal systems of the world, irrespective of the age, gender, race or nationality of the candidates". If the Registrar decides not to assign counsel to the accused and the accused is dissatisfied with that decision, then, under the provisions of the Tribunal's Directive on Assignment of Defence Counsel, he may seek the President’s review of the Registrar’s decision.

The role of the Trial Chamber was to carry out judicial supervision to ensure compliance with the applicable rules. It therefore dismissed the defence motion but ordered the Registrar to make a determination regarding the indigence of the accused and accordingly either to grant or deny the assignment of defence Counsel to the accused. Trial Chamber II stated that it was aware of the accused’s right of equality before the Tribunal as stipulated in the Tribunal’s Statute, and was of the opinion that this right had not been breached.

For information only - Not an official document

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