Robert Utter: Let me introduce myself if I may. I’m Robert Utter. I’m here on behalf of the ICTR Information Heritage Program and I’m here as an interviewer and you are the interviewee today. We’re honored to have you.
RU: Would you give us your name please?
RU: And you work with the ICTR.
I work with the ICTR Office of the Prosecutor.
RU: And how long have you been here?
I came to the ICTR in February, 2002, so it’s almost seven years or it’s getting close to seven years.
RU: And what is your current role at ICTR?
My functional title is Senior Appeals Council which will lead you to think that I’m dealing with appeals but I’m not doing that yet. I’m still doing trial work.
RU: Someday you’ll do appeals . . .
Yeah, I’m hoping next year.
Yes, soon. I’m finishing off a smaller trial right now so once that is done, I’m supposed to go into appeals.
RU: And how long had you done the trial work then?
I started doing trial work straight when I came here and a couple . . . actually a couple of months after I arrived, it was the opening statement of what is called the Military One Trial which is one of the bigger trials we have had dealt with in this office and the opening statement was on 2nd April, 2002 and then I was engaged . . . I’ve been engaged in trial work ever since.
I finished . . . I was part of the team that finished that trial and the evidence in, in January of 2007, and then I was assigned a new, smaller trial. That is the one that I’m now dealing with.
RU: And you mentioned team. Let me know what that is composed of.
Yeah. When I came, I came from Chambers work at The Hague from the ICTY and I was recruited as the legal adviser; that was my title. However, I was doing trial work and in the team at the time when I arrived, it was headed by a person; Chile Eboe-Osuji who is now Chief of Chambers here. I don’t know if you had an opportunity to talk to him.
And then there was one American lawyer, one Canadian lawyer, a Tanzanian lawyer. There was some shifting around in that team so the persons that went to trial on that case was, it was an American Lawyer, Barbara Mulvaney and then it was Drew White. He was her, her second senior lawyer. And then it was myself and a Tanzanian lawyer Rashid Washid.
And then we had a couple of other people who was there for shorter periods, including Patibon Suda who is now the deputy prosecutor of the ICC. So over the years, we have had a number of people on the team but there’s also been a core of personnel that remained within the team and, and practically started the case and finished it.
RU: When you say team, this is the group that presents the case for the prosecution?
It is, yes and it’s normally, its several lawyers and then it’s assisted but by a person that’s called a case manager. Such person can be lawyer but doesn’t have to be and basically what that person does is a lot of different things but facilitates the process for the attorneys.
RU: Given the scope of what you do, that’s a big job.
It’s a big job. It’s a big job.
RU: And, and this as you point out is your second position with the International Criminal Tribunal.
RU: But what was your work before you did the one on Yugoslavia?
Yeah, I, I can hardly remember. I’ve been with the tribunals for ten y-, over ten years now, and, but I’ve started out as a trainee judge in Sweden so when I was recruited to the ICTY I was, what we, what you may want to call a baby judge. We have a judge training system.
So normally once you leave law school you apply to clerk and you clerk for two years and then you apply to go to the, the appeals court and start your training as a judge. And that’s where I was at when I left that career to go to The Hague.
RU: And what attracted you to the work of The Hague?
RU: What attracted you to the work of The Hague?
Several things. Obviously it was current affairs at the time. This was early 1990s and as I was finishing off my law degree, the war in Yugoslavia, I’m from Yugoslavia, broke out. It was very much part of what was going on. I did some international law courses in my first degree in Sweden. After having clerked for a year, I went abroad.
I went to London School of Economics to do a Master’s degree in Public International Law and as I was there, the genocide broke out in Rwanda. So I came, n-, when I came back to Sweden to continue clerking, I was already very much interested in what was going on at, in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
And so was many fairly young lawyers at the time and I had a friend, it’s really – I had a friend who I had clerked with at a district court who got – who started working on a secondment basis for the ICTY. And they were looking for staff and he picked up the phone and asked me, “We are looking for more personnel. Why don’t you apply?”
Because he knew we shared a common interest. And he had also been a student at the, at the LSE. And of, so I did. I, I was intrigued, but of course you know it’s always the situation of leaving a career that you already started. But I, I’m very glad that I did.
RU: And so you were aware of the massacre and the difficulties in Rwanda while you were still with the tribunal in . . .
Yes, I was. I was, I was already involved in the field although not professionally, but yes I was already a-, aware. When the Yugoslav conflict broke out it was – in Sweden it was big news . . .
. . . and almost everyone knew someone who had a relative who was from the area because we have a large emigra- . . .
. . . group of emigrants from that area in Sweden so it felt pretty much like home and also having a war on European territory no one thought that would happen again after the Second World War.