Christopher Black: Lawyer’s Experience with ad-hoc Tribunals

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I n t e r n a t i o n a l   C o n f e r e n c e
The Hague Proceedings against Slobodan Milosevic: Emerging Issues in International Law
The Hague, Saturday, 26 February 2005

Lawyer’s Experience with ad-hoc Tribunals


by Christopher Black

I’m not going to address the same points everybody else has, because they have been so well said. It is self-evident that these tribunals are illegal and an attack on the sovereignty of the world. Watch what will happen to you if you resist the new world order.

I will make my remarks about my personal experience at not only this tribunal in The Hague, but mainly about my experience at the Rwanda Tribunal which is a sister tribunal to the Hague Tribunal and which up until last year shared the same prosecutor. Mr. Clark will echo everything which I will say to you as he has done a trial there as well, or what was called a trial. The experience of most lawyers in fact, I think, all lawyers that work at these tribunals is one of shock, depression, dismay, anger and sometimes a feeling of insanity, because these trials are inquisitorial proceedings in which there is only one objective and that is, to put the accused in prison and use them as examples to their home peoples. The trials themselves are something to see. At the Rwanda Tribunal, perhaps, it’s even worse than The Hague tribunal because in that instance the people that took apart Rwanda, the Rwanda Patriotic Front or RPF, are a proxy for and backed by the United States and its allies. They have now, through several of their officers who fled the regime, admitted that they killed in twelve weeks two million people both Hutus and Tutsis.  The genocide didn’t happen except insofar as the invading army killed two million people in these twelve weeks. But yet not one member of that invading army has been charged, not one member of the American, Canadian, Belgian or other allied countries who were involved in that war have been charged. Not one member of the United Nations Military Forces in Rwanda at that time in 1994 to maintain peace while a transition government was formed and who were involved overthrowing the regime has been charged.

So we have an exactly parallel situation to what happened in Yugoslavia in which Yugoslavia was targeted in Eastern Europe at the same time the US and Britain targeted Rwanda in Africa. They wanted to control Central Africa and they used the same techniques, same strategies, broke up the country, caused all sorts of trouble inside the country and demonized the existing regime as criminals and of abusing human rights.

Now, in these trials you don’t have indictments with specific charges which the accused know they are facing. The indictments are multiple. They continually change. In my case now we have had three indictments, the last one issued one month before the trial began – so after four years of doing this case, I still do not know the real charges against my client, who was the head of the National Police there, and there have been cases in which people have been convicted of crimes not included in the indictments. We were told that we are allowed to defend these people and we are given resources, but we are not. Many times lawyers are not paid for months, sometimes up to a year, I haven’t been paid now for over a year – except my expenses, I made no money – many lawyers are the same. We are only allowed part time investigators, part time legal assistance. Investigators have been arrested. There are several cases in which our investigators from Rwanda have been arrested and charged with war crimes themselves in order to sabotage our defense. Investigators have been accused of war crimes and their contracts suspended but never charged and last week, an investigator was found poisoned in a hotel room in Malawi and I know this man.  He worked on two cases there and on mission on Malawi he was found poisoned and we suspect who did it. Not only was he poisoned, several other investigators working for lawyers on the so called Military 1 Trial, which is the Milosevic trial, the big trial, several other investigators have been threatened when they have gone to conduct investigations in Rwanda. All the witnesses they have seen have been picked up by the Military Police and Intelligence Service in Rwanda and detained and threatened and now we have investigators who’ve fled to France and seek refugee status because they are afraid even to work or live in Africa anymore. Lawyers have been threatened. I was threatened by two ministers of the RPF government and told that if I didn’t keep my mouth shut that I had a very dim future. So you can’t defend people under those circumstances. You can’t prepare a defense. Not only are the lawyers not paid which is perhaps something we have to suffer but we don’t get any money to do investigations. We have to apply every time we want to send an investigator to a different country to speak to a witness – many of them are in Europe – you have to apply for permission. And often they say no, we are not going to pay for that trip without any reason. Or they approve a trip and then cancel it. There is no right to counsel. They say there is a right to counsel but if I’m an accused and I’d like Ramsey to be my lawyer, he first has to be put on a list and that’s a process which they have to approve them and they resist certain lawyers, those they know will fight them. And then if you do get on the list an accused may ask for Ramsey but they tell me to give three names to them and they will give me the third name on the list. If Ramsey is first, they won’t give me Ramsey, they’ll give me somebody else, or if they don’t like anybody on this list they say, we don’t like this list give us another list. In turn they get somebody that they like and then that’s who I’ll get. There have been cases where accused have selected counsel from different countries and they have deliberately given them counsel who have never been on the list in order to prevent certain counsel from representing these people. And this occurs at the ICTY as well.

The trials are impossible because there is no disclosure to speak of. All the witnesses at the ICTY are testifying under secret names. These codenames are supposedly to protect these witnesses from retribution by the accused. How can President Milosevic take retribution against some witness who appears for the prosecution. He has no power. And the same applies to the Hutu, the entire Hutu leadership in prison. They have no power to affect anything inside Rwanda, the Military dictatorship that exists there now, and yet they insist on not telling us who these witnesses are until a few days before they appear. And that secret witness aspect is put in place in order to dramatize that these people are scary people. They want the world to think that these people, President Milosevic, these Hutus, are dangerous people even while they are in prison and that’s how bad they are. So the witnesses can’t testify or appear in their real name, because they may be assassinated or murdered or God knows what. None of it is true but the whole thing is theatre, it’s all about theatre. The practical effect though is, that when they come to testify, we have no idea who they are. We cannot go and check their backgrounds to see if they actually were in the places, they say they were, or saw the things they say, they saw. It turns out that most of the witnesses at the ICTR are small people, peasants, drivers, shop assistants, people who somehow pretend to have overheard conversations between generals and leaders. In the Rwanda situation I say 80 % of the witnesses are prisoners from the jails in Rwanda, most of them picked up on unspecified charges and held for years at a time. We had one guy two days ago tell us that he had been picked up in 1997 at 19 years of age, held on charges he was never told about. He tried to confess to some charges. They wouldn’t let him. He’s still been held in prison in a cell 5 by 7 meters with a 120 people for the last seven years. And they’ve all done deals in order to get out and they’ve all been scripted. He even told us that investigators had told him what to say at the hearings. And I’m sure this is what goes on at the ICTY Most of these witnesses are scripted. There are three cases in the Rwanda tribunal in which witnesses have been brave enough to come in saying that all the witnesses in this trial testifying in this to judge, all of us had been told what to say, all of us had been given scripts and we were told to say this, otherwise we’d be shot. The famous one is the media trial. Now, these people have been sent back to Rwanda and we don’t know what’s happened to them. But that’s probably what’s happening at the ICTY. Most of the witnesses, who are small people, are being forced to testify to scripts, because if you examine those testimonies, they know things they couldn’t possibly know, they saw things they couldn’t possibly have seen.

Then you have the situation in which you can’t cross-examine. The judges don’t want us to discuss the actual context of the wars involved. Mr. Milosevic can’t tell, can’t discuss NATO actions. He can’t, he is not allowed to discuss what Clinton did and what everybody else did. That’s not relevant. In the Rwanda tribunal you can’t discuss what the RPF did, what the UN did, that’s not relevant. So the enemy is never considered. There is a war but the enemy forces are never discussed, never allowed to be mentioned. They are just ghosts on the wall, shadows.

The use of hearsay is infamous. Most of the witnesses come in and say, I don’t know anything myself but I heard from X who told me, that Z told him this. And that’s the basis of most of the convictions. It’s all double, triple, and quadruple hearsay. Very few witnesses have come to this tribunal and have direct observations. As with Mr. Milosevic, there’s not been one scintilla of evidence that the crimes they say were committed even existed. In the Rwanda tribunal there is not one scintilla of evidence yet after eight years that there was a plan to commit genocide, not one. Not one document, not one telephone call, not one fax or communicate order, nothing. And yet these trials go on.

One famous example happened in September, and this, I think, shows you exactly what is going on in both these tribunals. As you may remember, the 1994 so-called genocide in Rwanda, began the day the President’s plane was shot down, we know now by the RPF and other forces. 13 Belgian soldiers were killed at a military base. They were picked up at a certain place, taken to a military base by the Rwandan army and    attacked and killed. The prosecution theory is that the government planned to kill Belgian soldiers in order to force the Belgian contingency of UN Forces to leave, so the UN would leave the country and therefore they could go ahead with their plan to commit genocide. This whole theory falls apart though if there wasn’t a plan to kill Belgian soldiers. The prosecution has charged two officers in my trial with planning to kill Belgian soldiers. And they bring in a corporal who was at their camp and who said, I saw them encourage the soldiers to kill these Belgians. The man was never there. He was never at that camp. His story is completely fabricated. But the prosecution gave us disclosure on a CD-Rom which they never read, but which we did. In that CD-Rom is the entire UN Force Report on the death of those soldiers, and in that Report they speak to UN Military observers who were based at that camp, saw the Belgians arrive and saw them being attacked. The UN Military observers and some Ghanaian UN soldiers who were there state that when mutinous soldiers who thought the Belgians shot down the plane – and it’s probably true, they helped shoot down the plane – were so angry that they killed their President, attacked these soldiers, all the senior officers at that military base tried to stop that attack. They came and tried to stop their men from killing these Belgians. The soldiers turned their guns on their own officers and forced them to back off. So, the UN has in its hands information from UN Officers – one is a captain – which completely exonerate these soldiers from the crime for which they are held now for five years in prison. They will never bring those soldiers, those UN soldiers to testify. They will never alert the judges to the fact that these men have a complete defense. They lay these charges knowing that they are not guilty of them and they have to lay that charge because if they don’t, the entire thesis that there was a plan to commit genocide falls apart. If the Hutu government didn’t want to kill Belgians that means that they did not want to drive the Belgians out. If they didn’t want to drive the Belgians out, the UN Forces didn’t have to go and therefore they couldn’t have planned to commit genocide. So they continue this absurd logic of going after charges they know not to be true in order to – in the eyes of the public – condemn this whole government. We gave the judges the statements by the UN soldiers who were at that camp and saw what really happened. The judges looked at it and then just thrust it aside, so it wasn’t relevant. So you ask yourself, can these men get a fair trial – no. Can President Milosevic get a fair trial if he is not allowed to present what really happened in the Balkans in the 90s? No. Can the world ever know if he is guilty or if he is not guilty if he is not allowed to discuss history; what really happened. Can these men in Rwanda do that if they are not allowed to discuss what really happened? And the answer is – no. And to show you how – as Professor Bernardini said, it is political violence – how serious this is, there is now a move by the Rwandan tribunal to send these prisoners for trial to their enemies in Rwanda, the RPF regime and to make them serve their sentences in Rwanda. It’ll be akin to handing over President Milosevic to the KLA, to hand him directly over to Agim CekuThat’s what they want to do. The UN says it’s neutral, but in fact it is now planning to deliver these men over to their enemies in Rwanda, this military dictatorship. Professor Philip Reyntjens who is a very famous man in the university in Antwerp and who is an expert on the Great Lakes region in Africa and was a prosecution witness for many years wrote a letter just one month ago saying, as with witnesses at the ICTY, he is now refusing to cooperate with the ICTR anymore because of its policy of selective prosecution. And so, in fact they can’t have fair trials, and therefore he is withdrawing his services with them. He has stated that if they are sent back to Rwanda, they will be dead within one year. Every one of these prisoners will be dead. Because they are the entire former regime and they represent the intellectual class of Hutus in Rwanda. So the UN which says it’s neutral, is using this tribunal to not only demonize and condemn this former leadership and allow the United States and Britain to control Central Africa through this proxy regime in Rwanda, they are going further than that and further than the ICTY. They are now going to hand these men over to the invading army which attacked them in the first place. And you can imagine what you would feel if you found out today, that they’re going to hand over Milosevic, if he is convicted, they are going to hand him over directly to the KLA? What would you think? And that’s exactly what they are going to do. And I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that happens to President Milosevic because if Kosovo is broken off and joins Albania, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has to serve his sentence in Greater Albania and how long will he last there? So – it’s hard to explain – the horror of what’s really going on. The prisoners know they are condemned. They are intelligent men and women. They wrote a long letter to the Secretary General and the Security Council complaining about them being sent back to their death  in Rwanda – if I can find the passage, but I can’t – but there is a, it’s a long letter I’d to read to you, I have it up here, you can read it, I can’t find it now but it doesn’t matter – but they are basically saying that if these tribunals were just tribunals, then the UN tribunal would not want to send them to Rwanda, they would send them to places where they’ve already agreed to be sent which is France, Mali, Italy. But now they want to send them back to Rwanda. So the only thing I can say is that  most of us who have done trials wonder why we are there, because in one way we make the tribunal look legitimate by being there so that they can say, they have defense counsel.  The prisoners asked us to stay, despite that ethical problem and said to us that may be true but on the other hand, if we don’t have you people here, the world will never know the true story of what happened in Rwanda, will never know what we really did. And our only hope is to have you and hope to get some truth out, so we ask you to stay. So we have. But it’s very difficult and it doesn’t sit easy with the conscience to sit there and take part in trials which we know are unfair and cannot possibly be fair.

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