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Empowering Kurdistan’s Legal Experts: A Successful Conclusion to the International Criminal Law Training Program in The Hague

The Kurdistan Center for International Law (KCIL) in coordination with IFA via the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fund, organized training program in partnership with the Association of Defense Council as the training provider. This Training covered various topics related to the “Mechanisms of International Criminal Justice.” It took place from August 28 to September 1, 2023, with 10 participants, including judges, prosecutors, advisors to the Kurdistan Parliament, university professors, and lawyers, at the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, The Netherlands.

On the first day of the training, Mary O’Leary from the Association of Defense Council provided an overview of the course program, introduced their association, she also explained the mechanisms of conducting a fair trial and highlighted the role played by  lawyers from their association in international courts and tribunals. During the same day, participants shared their experiences concerning the domestication of international law in the Kurdistan Region, and the obstacles involved in this process were analyzed.

Judge Prof. Margaret Deguzman at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals presented the topic “Current Overview of the Courts and Situations in International Criminal Law” during the exercises on the first day. Additionally, Defense Counsel Sarah Bafadel provided essential insights into “Universal Jurisdiction, Domestication, and Complementarity.” The first day of the training course concluded with participant comments and a productive discussion.

The second day commenced with a significant field visit to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals headquarters. During the day’s program, Michael Herz from the Office of the General Counsel for the Defense of the International Criminal Court presented a paper on “Comparative International Criminal Procedure.” This presentation aimed to familiarize participants with the analysis of comparative measures within international criminal law, focusing on how different legal systems handle issues such as extradition, prosecution of war crimes, genocide, and other international crimes. Participants also learned how to conduct analyses comparing domestic law with international criminal law in the prosecution of crimes under international criminal law. Towards the end of the second day, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Pubudu Sachithanandan delivered an intensive presentation on “Introduction to Case Building and Charging,” following the applicable principles of the International Criminal Court. This presentation offered participants a deep understanding of the mechanisms involved in case building and adherence to international mechanisms during the judicial process.

On the third day, participants and the project team visited the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague, providing them with the opportunity to interact with the department’s responsible parties, explore the experimental courtroom designed for visitors, and view the archived experiences of the Kosovo War Crimes Tribunal. The third day concluded with a lecture by Christopher Lentz from the University of Chicago Law Department, focusing on the “Admissibility of Evidence in International Criminal Cases.” This topic was of significant importance to participants, as it shed light on the acceptance of evidence within the framework of international criminal law.

The fourth day commenced with a visit to the International Criminal Court, providing participants with an invaluable experience. In the afternoon of the same day, mock examinations were organized for the participants. These examinations, led by Betty Hohler, aimed to evaluate the participants’ perceptions and performance in groups based on the lessons presented during the training program and their understanding of international law, particularly international criminal law, in resolving real cases.

The final day of the training course continued with experimental trials led by Kate Gibson and Annie O’Reilly from Associasion Defence Council. In the afternoon, Evelyn Anoya, an assistant professor at DePaul College of Law, delivered a presentation titled “Implementation of International Criminal Law and Procedure in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq – A Focus on Vulnerable Groups under international criminal law.” This lecture prompted a multidimensional discussion among the participants, who provided valuable insights into the current status of the implementation of international criminal law in the Kurdistan Region and discussed the legal and constitutional obstacles involved in the process of domestication.