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Interview with Mr. Xavier-Jean Keïta, Principal Counsel of the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence at the International Criminal Court

On April 13, 2023, Xavier Jean Keïta, Principal Counsel of the Office of Public Counsel for the Defense at the International Criminal Court, had the pleasure of inviting us to this institution to the Hague (Netherlands), and granting us an exclusive interview.

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Cour Pénale Internationale / International Criminal Court | PICTURE BY AURIANE KOUAKOU | 13/04/2023

Xavier-Jean Keïta has had a long career in criminal law. Of Franco-Senegalo-Malian origin, he studied in Bamako (Mali) and Dakar (Senegal) until secondary school, then graduated from Assas and La Sorbonne in Paris. He returned to Senegal where he passed the Bar exam, then returned to France where he was active for 22 years at the Paris Bar, at the Paris Court of Appeal, and at the Val de Marne Bar in Créteil. Mr. Keïta was president of l’union des jeunes avocats (the union of young lawyers) before becoming a member of the National Office and president of the FNUJA (Fédération Nationale de l’Union des Jeunes Avocats), the 1st union of lawyers in France in 1999. He was also a member of the Conseil National des Barreaux (National Bar Council) for a term of 3 years. His qualities as a member of the French delegation responsible for setting up the Criminal Court and the International Criminal Bar enabled him to see the birth of the International Criminal Court (ICC) following the signing of the Rome Statute (1998), as well as to participate in the drafting of the code of conduct for lawyers at the ICC. Today, he directs the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD) of the International Criminal Court.

“The idea of ​​opening up to an international career came to me and I began to speak as part of my teaching of international criminal law, and in particular that which was being set up within the framework of the ICC. I never thought we were going to open a Defense Office. I applied in 2006. My application was successful. At the end of the year, I opened the Office as Principal Counsel for the Defense Office in the ICC. I left Paris to come and settle here in The Hague and now I am considered a veteran. Indeed, I have been there for 16 and a half years.”

Xavier-Jean Keïta
Hello Mr. Keïta, thank you for receiving us today in this House of Justice that is the ICC.

Thank you for visiting the ICC. It is indeed the common house, it is also your home since it is international criminal justice, with a universal vocation.

Could you explain to us in a few words what the International Criminal Court is ? I am thinking of those who have not studied law, or who do not feel concerned with what is political or juridical.

Here we do not play politics. The ICC is the first permanent international criminal jurisdiction. It was overtaken by earlier jurisdictions such as those of Tokyo and Nuremberg, which are jurisdictions set up just after the Second World War. We have as in other previous institutions the criminal tribunal for Rwanda which sat in Arusha (Tanzania) and the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. All of these jurisdictions, especially Nuremberg’s, I consider as “victor’s justice”. That does not detract from their merit as predecessors.

Victor’s justice, because if Hitler and his allies had won World War II, General de Gaulle, Churchill, Eisenhower, and other allies might have been judged as war criminals. We judged the Nazis because they lost the war. There is a great principle of Latin law : “nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege” (no crime, no punishment without law). This means that in an organized society, we must first establish the law and say what is authorized or prohibited. However, to have a victor’s justice is to set up a court to judge those who have been defeated. This is not satisfactory and it does not respect the principle of law which says that the law must precede rights and duties and then sanctions.

The same applies to the courts of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, here I qualify them as “justice of reaction”. We are in the 90s, the century when man walked on the moon. Who could have imagined that they would have had massacres in the former Yugoslavia that defy imagination? Who could have imagined that in 1994 we could have massacred our neighbor as we did? The Hutus massacred the Tutsis giving the world the 3rd genocide of this same century namely the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and the Tutsi genocide.

The ICC is the first jurisdiction that respects the principle of no punishment without law. This is the first time that States have come together and decided to set up a permanent international criminal jurisdiction in Rome on July 17, 1998. The 60 ratifications arrived on July 1, 2002 (the minimum number for the treaty to enter into force) and this is the beginning of the ICC. The ICC is not intended to take over the procedures of the ad hoc tribunals, it is not competent for facts committed before its birth. On the other hand, from July 1, 2002, the principle is applied that no one is supposed to be ignorant of the law. The ICC was born of a treaty, meaning that the countries wanted it. They came together and decided together. There is no greater act of sovereignty than for a state to give up some of its prerogatives to be stronger together. So together, we are always stronger. Today, 123 States have ratified the Treaty. 

How is the ICC seized?

The ICC has jurisdiction over four crimes: war crime, genocide, crime against humanity, and crime of aggression (since 2010). These crimes are imprescriptible, which means that if they are committed after July 1, 2002, the author can be prosecuted as long as he is alive. To explain things without being too technical, the ICC can be seized on the initiative:

  • Of a State party because there is a dramatic situation in its country that can fall within the four counts of charges and crimes which regards the ICC
  • From the prosecutor, who can take the initiative to go and investigate a country if there is a cause for concern
  • From the Security Council, the real policeman of the world (twice for Libya and Sudan)

With the ICC, the principle of complementarity applies. This means that the 123 States have a priority and even exclusive right and duty to prosecute the four crimes. It is only if a State does not have the means or organizes a mock trial to try to have people acquitted that the ICC takes control and investigates with its means.

And how does it work when it has to set up a trial?

These are the specificities of this court which was set up with the bodies mentioned, with a system of preliminary chambers which was not planned at the start. The Anglo-Saxons and the Romano-Germanic each sought in their way to enforce the rules relating to their juridical culture. The Anglo-Saxons seem to have won. France wanted an examining magistrate, but this was rejected in return a preliminary chamber was established and has the role of examining, and validating all the requests of the prosecutor before he can prosecute. Small limit to the omnipotence of the Prosecutor, the preliminary chamber is a filter that validates or not an arrest warrant that the prosecutor requests.

Another particularity is that it is an international jurisdiction that gives victims their place. Usually, the victims place themselves according to Anglo-Saxon procedures behind the prosecutor who speaks on their behalf. Art 68.3 of the Rome Statute gives a place to victims as participants who can put forward their views and considerations. Victims’ participation provided that this participation does not undermine the fairness of the proceedings and respect for the rights of defense and the presumption of innocence.

After a suspect appears for the first time before the pre-trial chamber, he is sent back to the same chamber for consideration of the charges. This is a confirmation of the charges hearing. As a defense, I consider that it is an attack on the presumption of innocence. This means that we already have in mind the guilt of the person against whom an investigation is underway. We go from the quality of the suspect to the quality of the accused and we go to a trial chamber with a judge or three, and after that we find ourselves before the Appeal chambers (five judges). Once the charges are confirmed in the trial phase, it is no longer the preliminaries. There is no Cassation system or Supreme court at the ICC. Since there is no starting truth, as in the American way, the lawyer investigates, the victims investigate and the prosecutor has already investigated. So when a case comes before the ICC, there are 3 opposing truths: that of the defense, that of the victims, and especially that of the prosecutor. Article 54 of the Rome Statute provides that the prosecutor investigates for and against. This means that any exonerating element of responsibility therefore in favor of the defense must be spontaneously communicated.

Article 21 of the Rome Statute says that there is a hierarchy of norms that applies. The rules of procedure and evidence, the rules of the ICC by integrating comparative and international case law, and the law of each country. If the letter or the jurisprudential law is compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Rome Statute, Article 21 allows tomorrow a lawyer, a judge, or the prosecutor to say that it is a jurisprudence of such place. The opening of the Rome Statute allows an enrichment of rights coming from everywhere it is a living right with contributions. Article 27 is in this sense the most democratic in the world because it states that the status of the person presumed guilty does not harm the prosecution. Whether one is an official, president, king, or director of a company, no quality allows one to escape prosecution before the ICC. If a person is likely to have committed one of the four crimes, they will be prosecuted. The court does not prosecute States even if the actions are shocking. There is always a person who has decided to act, to commit the wrongdoing. The ICC has a deterrent effect. It is a juridical nuclear weapon. The ICC is there to deter and otherwise prosecute.

What is this famous Office of Public Counsel for the Defense (OPCD) which is very little known to the public, and how does it work?

The OPCD is not yet an organ of the ICC, but for now, it has its place within the system that has been put in place within the ICC. We would have liked the Defense Office to exist as soon as the Rome Statute was adopted, but it was only created in 2004 when the judges of the Court implemented the rules of the ICC. I arrived on January 15, 2007, to set up this office, which aims to rebalance the forces between the prosecutor’s office, which is an integrated body of more than 300 members, and the outside defense lawyers who are free to choose their councils.

The name “Office of Public Counsel for Defense” is inappropriate because, at the very beginning, we wanted to set up public defenders, as in certain American states, but we realized that this did not fit with the universal vocation of the Court that of admitting to the list of its lawyers, lawyers from all over the world and also that of seeing lawyers enrich the jurisprudence of the ICC through their practice. Lawyers admitted to plead before the ICC must have at least 10 years of experience in criminal matters, criminal procedure, and international law and not have been convicted on disciplinary grounds, and finally provide proof of professional insurance. You can be a prosecutor, judge, or lawyer, you have to register on the so-called list of counsel which is kept by the registry. The Registrar is the head of the Registry, which is the grand piano of the ICC. He manages security, human resources, and the ICC website… he is the general administrator.

The Defense Office is not yet an organ, but we are fighting for it to be and we have as our credo the application of the principles of equality of arms, the presumption of innocence, and a fair trial. We are the guardians of the rights of the defense, in any case at the preliminary stage when the prosecutor is still investigating, my office is intended to protect the rights of the defense at the stage of the investigation even without being a lawyer for anyone. The Defense Office is the guardian of the balance of rights and respect for procedures.

We receive requests and we research on behalf of lawyers, and they are transformed into a memorandum. It is up to the lawyer to adapt the memorandum to his specific case, it is they who choose with his client the defense strategy that he will apply, decides the facts, and collects the evidence the Defense Office stays away from it all. Lawyers and the Defense Office have the same professional code of conduct, code of ethics, and professional conduct. We are Court staff, we have two hats. As court staff, we are subject to the ICC staff rules. As soon as we assist defense teams that are in court, we answer to the code of conduct of professionals. If there are disciplinary proceedings, an external body will be responsible for the procedure.

What is the trial that has marked you the most? Was there a trial that was more difficult than others?

I would say this is the trial against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, it is currently still ongoing. I was Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s lawyer for 2 years. My office was called upon in its capacity as guardian of the rights of the defense at the investigation stage when the Westerners decided to bomb Libya under the cover of various resolutions. Colonel Gaddafi was killed and his son was arrested. I intervened because the prosecutor was investigating a state that is not a party to the Rome Statute. As the true guardian of the world as opposed to the USA, Russia, or China, the ICC can be seized by the Security Council. It was necessary to provide that an investigation could be opened when there was suspicion of a massacre in an area, a State which is neither a member nor a signatory, and which has not ratified the Treaty of Rome. So the Treaty of Rome opened a window for the Security Council to refer to a situation in a country that is neither a member nor a signatory. This is only possible if no state asserts its right of veto. I campaign with others for the right of veto to be abolished. He has no reason to exist now and as proof one of the permanent members allows himself to invade a sovereign state (The invasion of Ukraine by Russia). Initially designated as the Defense Office and having traveled to Libya with my collaborator, he finally chose us to defend him. So it was no longer my office but me in my name who became Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s counsel.

In the story, we face the new Libyan state, led by the former collaborators of Colonel Gaddafi, the politicians knowing how to turn their jackets around in time. I asked to intervene directly because as soon as there is a warrant of arrest against a person, that person is entitled to the protection conferred on him by the Rome Statute, namely the right to a fair trial, the right to freely choose his counsel and if the person does not have the means, he is assigned one ex-officer who is paid by the international community under the presumption of innocence. The person under an arrest warrant has the right to be heard in a language he understands perfectly, the right to see his family, and to have access to a doctor and a judge. I therefore considered that Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi who was arrested by a brigade that held him wounded and without access to his family did not benefit from his rights. We had to visit him and since he had a right to a defense, I had to see him and find out if he was going to be tried by the ICC or Libya (question of jurisdiction). The ICC never takes priority over the country of origin. Libya said it wanted to try him. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s defense said he could not afford to try him and give him a fair trial since he wanted to kill him. The ICC agreed with us but before that, the chamber authorized us to go there a first time, and a second time. But before going there, I felt that something was wrong and I asked that the trip be carried out under ICC security escort because on the first trip, we had already been subject to a hostage-taking that had lasted a few hours in Tripoli. We were released by the police and the ICC security who were present.

For the second mission in 2012, I requested that the mission take place under cover of ICC security. The administrator at the time replied that it was not necessary and that we could trust the Libyans who had given a pledge of all the guarantees. I said that in these conditions, I was not going there and I told my collaborator that if she wanted to go there she had to take responsibility for the risk incurred. Regarding the other members of the delegation, clerks, interpreters, and others not under my authority, I did not have to intervene. They all wanted to go, including my collaborator. Two days after the start of the mission, while my colleague was talking to our client, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the confidential interview was interrupted by a Kalashnikov fire, and the four colleagues were held incommunicado for 27 days. The ICC has experienced this tragedy. During this time, my colleagues could be killed or beheaded. If this had happened during the time of Daesh, we do not know what would have happened to our colleagues, it would have been traumatic. They were eventually released but some to this day have not yet recovered. It was the trial that marked me the most.

Some voices raise and criticize the ICC, considering that international justice is purely Western justice, which only judges the African States. What is your opinion of this idea?

This question is important because the ICC is often accused of being a “colonial court” : a court that judges only Africans in an unfair trial. Who started this controversy, the African states themselves, and I can say exactly when it started. It was in January 2009 when the ICC dared to issue an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state: Omar Hassan Al Bashir, former president of Sudan. When the prosecutor announced that he had issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state, that earned us the Organization of African Unity (OAU) against the ICC. African Heads of State rose against this Court because they realized that they could be prosecuted and that there was no immunity from the presidential office (recall of article 27). Thus, those who hate the ICC say that it is a court that only judges Africans, it is only a photo. Currently, there are indeed only Africans on trial but that does not mean that the court only judges Africans. The ICC is currently investigating Colombia, Palestine, Israel, the Philippines, Georgia, and Afghanistan, on the situation of the Uyghurs. The ICC is not just about Africa.

If we observe these African situations and cases, it should be noted that when a country seizes the ICC it is transferring a situation, not a file against a particular individual. Afterward, the ICC is independent, its prosecutor is investigating and it is only afterward that it can become a case against X or Y. All the cases handled have been at the initiative of the heads of state themselves. Only one situation could be blamed on the ICC. This is the case where the prosecutor considered based on a United Nations report that the post-election incidents that took place in Kenya fell within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The prosecutor took this report and did his investigation and so there was a situation in Kenya where a vice president was prosecuted before he became president and another person became vice president. The prosecution continued until the prosecutor based on a “no case to answer” dropped the charges. But he can take them back at any time these people have not been acquitted, we have only dropped the charges against them. Another example, in Uganda, it was President Museveni who seized the ICC, in Mali it was the Malians themselves who seized the ICC about the existing situation with the jihadists. The first situation came from the Democratic Republic of Congo which seized the ICC and again, it was President Kabila who seized the ICC.

For the Ivory Coast, this is a special case. In 2003, President Laurent Gbagbo seized the ICC when Côte d’Ivoire had not ratified the Rome Statute. One can accept the jurisdiction of the ICC by declaration without having ratified the Statute, and this is the case with Ukraine. By declaration, President Laurent Gbagbo accepted the jurisdiction of the Court for events that had taken place in his country. This statement caught up with her later as he was arrested. When the international community considered that President Ouattara had won the elections against Laurent Gbagbo, he immediately made a declaration of acceptance for the events of 2010 and 2011. This time again it was about post-election incidents. President Ouattara accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC only after Ivory Coast signed and ratified the Rome Statute.

So all these African cases do not make the ICC a colonial court that only investigated in Africa. I have often been asked if it does not bother me (an African) to be a senior international officer of the ICC who only judges Africans. On the contrary, if we clean at my house I will not refuse and ask that we go and clean at the neighbor’s house instead. I prefer that we clean “my continent”. Given all the civil wars in Africa, it is not tomorrow that there will be peace. Everyone is fighting there for his share of the pie. Can there be the development of our continent with civil wars? The answer is no. Are there victims or not in Africa? The answer is yes.

How do you manage to detach yourself from this feeling of horror, to take a step back from these situations that you are confronted with?

I am confronted with situations but I do not live them and fortunately. A special cell has finally been set up, a psychological cell to try to help the staff and all those who are parties to the procedures to overcome certain traumas and there are some. You can’t be detached when you’re working in cases where there’s rape, even child rape, gender-based crimes, and atrocities that defy imagination. I’m not indifferent, I’m just saying that I try to do my job. I keep busy with other cultural, religious, sporting, and other activities. I have other things in my life, but it is certain that when we return home, we do not always have peace of mind.

Acting as a defense seems to be difficult when those judged are accused of involvement in atrocities such as genocide and crimes against humanity. How do you manage to defend criminals? What treatment(s) do victims receive?

First, they are not criminals. They only become so when they have been convicted, that is to say, convicted without there being any more possible remedies, and therefore they are no longer presumed innocent. There are countries, dictatorships, or it is the opposite and there is a presumption of guilt. When the ICC set up the Rome Statute, it was inspired by the main principles which originated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Conventions for the Protection of Women, International Child Protection Conventions, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the European Convention. Not everyone has signed these conventions, but they have the value of international custom and all these main principles are integrated into the Rome Statute. It is our common heritage, it is an enormous wealth in terms of principles, the jurisdiction of the ICC relating to atrocities cannot leave anyone indifferent.

The ICC applies the main principles of law. Just because you’re involved in a lawsuit doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Similarly, when you are the victim of a person, you must demonstrate that the perpetrator is indeed that person who is being prosecuted, who can then be sentenced. You have to prove the causal link and that is not always easy. This is why I proposed that we rigorously apply the main principles of law and that we do not sell dreams to the victims, by guaranteeing them compensation for what they have suffered.

Even if I am in defense, I was a lawyer at the assizes, a lawyer for victims, I am in my 39th year of practice, and it gives me perspective. I proposed to the States Parties that we establish a principle that would be a little more balanced. If we keep the procedure that allows victims to participate, when there is an acquittal, they are victims a second time. It is up to the prosecutor to do his job properly and find the real culprits. The system that I have proposed is that we consider the States and the elected representatives who represent them are considered to be responsible because it is part of their role to protect their nationals, particularly in the case of civil wars and or other fights. It is the State which is primarily responsible and it is therefore up to it to repair and pay immediately. If it cannot, it is the Security Council, the policeman of the world, so the United Nations must compensate the victims, even if it means turning against the State in question. This is for me the true principle of responsibility and accountability. You are responsible for your actions, we cannot tell the victims that we did not find the perpetrators, we investigated poorly, and that there is an acquittal. The international community must pay for these victims. Persons prosecuted at the ICC who are believed to be wealthy are generally declared destitute and taken into care under juridical aid. And if they are imprisoned for several years, they have nothing left because of the poor management or lack of maintenance of the seized goods which become unusable, without market value, and the victims even less.

There is a trust fund, a victim compensation fund fed by donations that accompanies the victims, repairs (psychological follow-up), socializes the victims, puts child soldiers back in school, and takes care of people traumatized by civil wars. Those who attack or criticize the ICC never talk about it. No one ever talks about his actions. There are material and financial reparations, but also apologies and that’s not nothing, and the fact of keeping the participation of the victims, it’s already a reparation because they don’t always know who the perpetrator is, of the abuse they have suffered. The fact of coming to the ICC is already an acknowledgment of the state of the victim and therefore a beginning of reparation. I am for a review of the status of victims from a reparation point of view and for the system to be more complete than the one that currently exists and which is causing a lot of people to be disappointed. It will also help to put less pressure on the defense. Victims believe that it is the person who is presented to the court who must compensate for the reparation. One could have the impression of being in front of a second prosecutor.

Can we question the weight, and above all the limits of international criminal justice when important countries, such as the United States, Russia, and China, are absent?

If you question this Court as the detractors do by considering that this Court is worthless because there are no Americans, Chinese, India, Russia, Israel, or Arab countries… The right which is put in place, the Member States must adapt their internal systems, they can keep the death penalty if they want but if they adapt, they transfer to the ICC, and there is no penalty of death. If we are content to say that when such and such a state is not part of it, it is worth nothing, no there are 123 states including 54 African states, 33 others including Europeans, Latinos, etc. …

It is a court that has a universal vocation, which is a call to other States to come and join us and hopefully, as I hope, the States will realize that it is better to be there, to be part of it. President Clinton signed it on behalf of Americans, but President Bush Jr. did not ratify it. Personally, I hoped that President Obama would ratify but that was not the case and that was my great disappointment concerning him. It would have been a big step if the Americans had ratified. The Americans fought us, and sued some members of the Court, the Prosecutor, and one of the directors…but the Americans are cooperating with the ICC. They monitor everything that happens at the ICC. They just don’t want us chasing Americans. The Americans are quietly cooperating with the ICC. They are not our worst enemies except when we disturb them in the investigations of Afghanistan, Israel, and Palestine, that does not please the Americans but the ICC is courageous and continues its work.

Palestine is considered a state at the level of the ICC of which it is a member. It is a state party but it does not have a seat in the United Nations. In the beginning, there was only one China, but this China has changed. Now, there is Taiwan which is not a State whereas it is this part of China which was a member of the Security Council. States ended up recognizing Mao’s China. This world is changing and soon it will be those who are not inside the ICC who will feel bad. One cannot preach the best virtues and say that one fears this Court. This means that we have something to reproach ourselves with in terms of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. So I hope that one day there will be more members. Things are moving, we have to be optimistic. My motto is the strength to dare and the courage to accomplish.

In the context of the war in Ukraine, the ICC opened an investigation into Russia, and recently made an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova (Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia), for war crimes, while the war in Ukraine is still ongoing: What do you think will be the possible consequences if both states do not accept the jurisdiction of the ICC (have signed but not ratified the Treaty of Rome)? In what capacity can the ICC intervene ?

To begin, I would like to correct an inaccuracy. It is often said that neither Ukraine nor Russia are members of the ICC. No, Russia has not ratified the statute which it had nevertheless signed and withdrawn its signature. Ukraine has neither signed nor ratified the Rome Statute, however, after the invasion of Crimea in 2011-2013, it accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC by the declaration in 2014, (art 12.3 of the Statute of the jurisdiction of the Court for all the facts that happened at that time and to follow). It was prescient. There was then this aggression that everyone recognizes, there will be consequences against the Russians but perhaps also against the Ukrainians. What is not possible for two countries that have not ratified is to implement the crime of aggression.

This is why the international community is talking about setting up a special tribunal for Ukraine. The main crime is that of a country invading another country and this is called a crime of aggression. The ICC cannot have jurisdiction based on the declaration, the two States concerned must both be States Parties. The consequence is that this arrest warrant disturbed the Russians. Vladimir Putin can only go to China, North Korea, and other countries, he will doubt going there because there could be an agreement between the country where he is going to go or cross and the ICC because he could be arrested at any time. So it bothers a head of state to have an international arrest warrant on his back. As soon as the mandate is issued, you can no longer go where you want. Belgium, France, and other countries have juridical systems of universal jurisdiction (international convention against Genocide, torture…). Therefore, President Bush does not stop in Brussels because there are complaints against him regardless of his status as a former president of the United States. Even for a jurisdiction that closes, there can be prosecution of genocide anywhere in the world. Thanks to universal jurisdiction, the action of justice can continue even against those who were not known and who for some today boast on the web of their misdeeds believing themselves to be safe. Current law is evolving, nothing is closed, and investigations are always possible. I don’t know if the ICC will have the means to arrest and try Putin, the future will tell. Who would have thought that we would judge Hassan Omar El Bechir, he is currently detained. Putin may no longer be head of state, and he has received an arrest warrant…

In a wonderful and ideal world where you would have full power, what would you like to change or improve in the functioning of the ICC?

If I had these full powers, would it be an ideal world? I can’t say that I would be happy like that. And if the ICC was perfect, it would be known. I like the ICC and I often criticize it because I want to improve it, it can be improved, it is our parliament. I would say that an ICC that wants to be a model of international criminal justice, must have the defense at the same level as the prosecutor’s office and not just a small office of defense lawyers. There must be an integrated body that represents the rights of the defense because the Rome Statute is based on procedural fairness, equality of arms, and the presumption of innocence. Then I will say to the international community “You have created a very beautiful instrument, those who set it up in 1998 are no longer there, the dreams are no longer the same”. Today we have states that prefer to financially face the post-Covid era to save their national businesses and their economy rather than pay their contribution or dues to the ICC. The ICC needs more resources. Its role is fundamental. We cannot rely on the current budget, which is insufficient to carry out the mission of justice. With high-level investigation, and the use of the highest technology, we must have more people and less pressure in terms of working conditions. The ICC does not have enough material resources, in terms of personnel. It must have a substantial budget and live up to the Statute it has put in place.

The ideal Court for me is a Court that exists but no longer has much activity because our world will have improved and there will be no more crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. It may be dreaming, but it will also mean that complementarity will be put in place and that the States where this is intended to happen will have structures in place, i.e. positive complementarity, and that there will no longer be a need for the ICC. For me, it is the ideal world to have a Court that no longer works because the world, our human nature will finally have become what it deserves to be respected by our neighbor

So we come to the end of this interview, would you like to add a few words or send a message to our readers?

I want to tell them that the ICC is a great place to do an internship or a professional visit. Visit the site and come and do an internship of 6 months or more. You should know that this is also an opportunity for the Court to identify its future staff. Give yourself the opportunity to live an experience that can be very rewarding !

Thank you very much, Mr. Keita, for this fruitful exchange and especially for the time you have given us.


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