Civil society and international criminal tribunals

genocide trial of retired generals

Evaluating civil society participation before international criminal tribunals: the amicus curiae and the rights of the defence

International criminal tribunals are increasingly the venue for advocacy by civil society organisations, including through the use of the amicus curiae, or friend of the court. This project focuses on the influence of civil society on legal outcomes, the impact on the right of the defence to a fair trial, and whether such interventions are truly representative.

It will assess:

(i) how civil society actors seek to intervene in international criminal tribunals and the influence of these interventions on legal outcomes;
(ii) the extent to which such interventions are consistent with the right of the defence to a fair trial;
(iii) the growing reliance of courts on the amicus curiae brief, and the implications of this for the defence; and 
(iv) whether such interventions reflect the range of civil society interests in international criminal justice, or are limited to 'Western' perspectives.

This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project number DP140101347).

Personnel: 

This project is led by  Associate Professor Sarah Williams of UNSW and Doctor Hannah Woolaver of the University of Cape Town, with research assistance from  Emma Palmer, as well as Amanda Cabrejo-Le Roux, Sam Hartridge, Caitlin Eaton, Isobel O’Brien and Mark Knespal.


 

Latest News: 

  • Hannah Woolaver and Emma Palmer's article, ‘ Challenges to the Independence of the International Criminal Court from the Assembly of States Parties', is now available with Advance Access from the Journal of International Criminal Justice.
  • Hannah Woolaver provided comment to The New York Times in relation to the South African government’s provision of diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe after she assaulted a South African citizen while in Johannesburg for medical treatment.
  • Emma Palmer was conferred her PhD for her thesis, ‘ International Criminal Law in Southeast Asia: Beyond the International Criminal Court’ in August 2017.
  • In June 2017, Sarah Williams presented on ‘Civil Society Participation in Preliminary Examinations’ at the Quality Control in Preliminary Examination: Reviewing Impact, Policies and Practices conference at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
  • Sarah Williams, Hannah Woolaver, and Emma Palmer have accepted a contract from Hart Publishing to publish a book, “The Amicus Curiae in International Law”. The manuscript will be completed by September 2017.
  • In October 2016, Hannah Woolaver provided expert analysis concerning the implications of South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court both on television and at  EJIL: Talk!
  • Sarah Williams and Hannah Woolaver edited a Special Collection for Africa's leading peer reviewed journal, Acta Juridica, Civil Society and International Criminal Justice in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities. The special issue arises out of a workshop held at the University Cape Town in February 2015 and includes a foreword by Richard Goldstone, with contributions from leading international criminal law academics and observations from civil society representatives. It was officially launched at the University of Cape Town on 17 October 2016.
  • Sarah Williams and Emma Palmer will attend The Politics of International Criminal Law conference, which will be held at The University of Western Australia in Perth on 15 - 16 September 2016.
  • Hannah Woolaver and Emma Palmer attended the annual Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law Conference , held at Australian National University in Canberra from 29 June to 2 July 2016. They presented a paper titled “Strangulation or Support? The Assembly of States Parties and the Independence of the International Criminal Court".
  • Sarah Williams co-authored an amicus curiae submission with Dr Rosemary Grey in response to a request from the International Co-Investigating Judge at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for submissions as to 'whether, under customary international law applicable between 1975 and 1979, an attack by a state or organisation against members of its own armed forces may amount to an attack directed against a civilian population for the purpose of Article 5 of the ECCC Law.' 
  • Hannah Woolaver presented “ The Influence of Amicus Curiae interventions in International Criminal Proceedings” at the 25 th Annual SLS-BIICL Conference on Theory and International Law , at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London, on 25 April 2016.
  • Sarah Williams and Hannah Woolaver spoke during an evening seminar held at Doughty Street Chambers in January 2016 on Shaping the Law: Civil Society Influence at International Criminal Courts
  • The project team held a one-day roundtable event on The Amicus Curiae in International Criminal Justice at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, The Hague on 18 January 2016. The roundtable allowed judges, legal practitioners, academics and civil society actors to discuss the practice, process, strategy and impact of the amicus curiae in international crimes trials.
  • Hannah Woolaver and Emma Palmer attended the 14th Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court in The Hague in November 2015 to observe civil society engagement with the Court and the states parties through the ASP process.
  • Hannah Woolaver carried out fieldwork in Nairobi in October and met with a variety of NGOS working on international criminal justice issues.
  • Emma Palmer and Sarah Williams presented "'Australia supports the International Criminal Court and its goal of ending impunity' - But Where and How?" at the International Criminal Law as Rhetoric? Exploring New Research Directions workshop held 15-16 October 2015 at Australian National University, Canberra.
  • Sarah Williams has been appointed as a member of International Humanitarian Law Committee of the NSW Red Cross.
  • Hannah Woolaver presented at the South Africa session of the International Congress on Universal Jurisdiction, organised by Baltasar Garzón International Foundation. The meeting was hosted by the University of Johannesburg from 18-19 August 2015.
  • Sarah Williams presented at the  Fourth Commonwealth Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference on International Humanitarian Law, held from 20-23 July 2015 in Canberra.
  • The UNSW Law team, coached by Sarah Williams, reached the semi-finals in the International Criminal Court Moot competition held in The Hague in May 2015.
  • Sarah Williams and Emma Palmer presented a paper considering The Changing Role of Non-State Influence at the International Criminal Court at the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law (ANZSIL) Annual Conference held in Wellington in July 2015. Emma also delivered a paper drawing on her PhD research considering International Criminal Law in Cambodia and Indonesia: How Civil Society Mediates Change at the Postgraduate Workshop that forms part of the Conference.
  • On Thursday 26 March 2015, Dr. Hannah Woolaver  presented on the recent landmark decision of the South African Constitutional Court in the  Southern African Litigation Centre v National Director of Public Prosecutions , in which she acted as an  amicus curiae . The case confirms that South African courts can, and may even have a duty to, exercise universal jurisdiction over international crimes in certain circumstances.
  • The Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, the Faculty of Law and Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW Australia, and the Australian Research Council Discover Projects Funding Scheme (DP140101347) held a workshop on Civil Society and International Criminal Justice in Africa at the University of Cape Town on 4-5 February 2015. The workshop focused on the role of civil society actors in influencing the establishment and proceedings of international criminal justice mechanisms. Papers prepared for the workshop will be published in a special issue of the Acta Juridica journal in 2016. If you are interested in submitting a paper for the special issue, please contact Sarah Williams. Download the web-based Executive Summary of the report by clicking here.
  • Emma Palmer attended the International Studies Association Annual Convention in New Orleans in February 2015, presenting on the topic of “ Local Agents of International Criminal Law in Cambodia and Indonesia: How Civil Society Mediates Change”.
  • Hannah Woolaver submitted an amicus curiae brief to the South African Constitutional Court alongside John Dugard, Kevin Heller and Gerhard Kemp in National Commissioner of the South African Police Service v Southern African Human Rights Litigation Centre and Zimbabwe Exiles’ Forum [2014] ZACC 30, decided 30 October 2014.
  • Sarah Williams and Emma Palmer organised the second annual International Criminal Law Workshop on 25-26 Sept 2014 on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Centre and the Faculty of Law, UNSW. 
  • Sarah Williams provided a paper on “ The amicus in international criminal tribunals: an impartial adviser or a new frontier for ‘lawfare’?” at the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law Conference in July 2014 and at the International Criminal Law Workshop in September 2014.

 

Events:

A Special Collection for Africa's leading peer reviewed journal, Acta Juridica,  Civil Society and International Criminal Justice in Africa: Challenges and Opportunities is now available  online and in hard copy.

The special issue arises from the workshop of the same name held at the University Cape Town in February 2015. It includes a foreword by Richard Goldstone, with contributions from leading international criminal law academics and observations from civil society representatives. The special issue addresses the range of strategies pursued by civil society actors across Africa to promote international criminal justice and analyses how civil society actors have engaged with the International Criminal Court and with international criminal law in domestic jurisdictions. 

It was officially launched at the University of Cape Town on 17 October 2016.

Shaping the Law: Civil Society Influence at International Criminal Courts

  • Date: Monday 25 January 2016
  • Time: 17:30 - 19:00
  • Venue: Doughty Street Chambers

There are few opportunites for civil society actors to participate within the formal processes of international criminal law. Yet civil society interventions can be significant, both in terms of promoting the value of international criminal justice and furthering the development and application of legal frameworks at both the national and international levels.

This event brought together practitioners, academics and civil society actors to consider the role of civil society interventions in proceedings concerning international criminal justice and more broadly. Participants discussed the strategy associated with making formal interventions in proceedings, including when or how it might be appropriate to submit amicus curiae briefs, and where and when such interventions are more likely to be effective.

The speakers were: Kirsty Brimelow QC (Doughty Street Chambers), Dr Mark Ellis (International Bar Association), Dr Sarah Williams (UNSW Law Australia) and Dr Hannah Woolaver (University of Cape Town). Geoffrey Robertson QC, Head, Doughty Street Chambers acted as Chair.

The official report is available  here.

The Amicus Curiae in International Criminal Justice

  • Date: Monday 18 January 2016
  • Time: 9:30 - 19:30
  • Venue: Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University, Campus The Hague

Program: Available  here .

The main way in which civil society can intervene in proceedings before international criminal tribunals is as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. The practice of allowing an amicus to participate in proceedings is included in the rules of procedure and evidence of most international and internationalised criminal tribunals, including the ICC. These rules generally provide chambers with a broad discretion to admit amicus curiae briefs where ‘desirable for the proper determination’ of the case. However, the use of the amicus must be balanced against the already complex nature of the trial process (especially where victims’ participation is also available) and the need to ensure that the fair trial rights of the accused are not adversely affected. Further, the strategic considerations, preparation and admission procedures, as well as the possible outcomes and use of the amicus curiae brief remain opaque.

These issues were discussed at a roundtable held at Leiden University, The Hague campus, on Monday 18 January 2016. The roundtable allowed judges, legal practitioners, academics and civil society actors to discuss the practice, process, strategy and impact of the amicus curiae in international crimes trials. The roundtable was divided into four sessions. Professor William Schabas provided a keynote address. Three subsequent panel sessions considered: the strategy and impact of amicus curiae briefs before the ICC (Panel 1); the possibility of the amicus curiae affecting fair trial rights or being ‘co-opted’ (Panel 2); and the procedural implications, ethical challenges and potential future directions for managing the amicus curiae process (Panel 3).

Speakers included Judge Howard Morrison (ICC), Judge David Re (STL), Helen Brady (Office of the Prosecutor, ICC), Steven Powles (Doughty Street Chambers), Michael Karnavas (ECCC), Gaëlle Carayon (Redress), Göran Sluiter (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Rupert Skilbeck (Open Society Justice Initiative), Colleen Rohan (ADC-ICTY), Manuel Ventura (Peace and Justice Initiative), Aurélie Roche-Mair (International Bar Association).

The meeting report is confidential, but the executive summary is available  here .  For further enquiries, please contact  sarah.williams@unsw.edu.au or  emma.palmer@unsw.edu.au


Project Publications:


Links:

  Role of the Amicus curiae before International Criminal Tribunals, The 

 Williams, Sarah; Woolaver, Hannah 


Contacts:

Associate Professor Sarah Williams, email: sarah.williams@unsw.edu.au
Emma Palmer, email: emma.palmer@unsw.edu.au
Doctor Hannah Woolaver, email: Hannah.Woolaver@uct.ac.za