Saturday, September 10, 2011

ICC: Sober, Humane, Stern and Professional

The epitome of the ICC Kenya Pre-Trial cases at The Hague is the presiding Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova or simply “Madam President”. She cut a simple, smiling and polite demeanor which was supplemented with an incisive and strict manner in conduct of business in the Court. Everybody in the court was acknowledged and made to feel comfortable but readily made aware of the serious business before them. From day one of the confirmation of charges hearing in Case No. 1, involving William Ruto, Henry Kosegy and Joshua Sang, the Prosecutor, Defence Counsels and Representative of Victims were reminded time was of essence. Madam President instilled in them that sense in confining their submissions to the issues of the case and being precise in order to save time. Hence, a case that was allocated 15 days was over within 8 days.

It was noteworthy, that there was no room for drama and waste of time in the court, the Kenyan style. The usual ‘defence – prosecution’ drama was missing and when it attempted to creep in, the judges were fast to put a halt to it. Perhaps, this was the biggest lesson for the Kenyan public, judges and legal fraternity glued in front of their TV sets for the duration of the trial. Trial is not a drama and circus that should devour time without end. It is a business that should be finished in the shortest time possible without compromising the integrity of the trial and justice. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.

The other lesson is that you can be strict and humane without the need for threats. The presiding judge was the hallmark of professionalism. Where it was necessary to straighten up a matter, like when some of the suspects and their counsels were amused by witness testimony, she was polite but stern. Witnesses were treated by the court with a lot of understanding and respect. At the same time, the court did not hesitate to remind them why they were there especially when they tried to introduce extraneous matters in their testimony.

Whatever the outcome of this case and the next one, Kenyans have had a taste of international justice process and it is quite different from the national one. The court can be humane and professional at the same time. In addition, impunity cannot enjoy protection any more. In future, the 'lords of impunity' will pause to think before engaging in acts that might result into international crimes. As we noted in an earlier post, whether the charges are confirmed or not, the victims and the people of Kenya are the winners.