ARUSHA 15 May 2002(Internews) Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has confirmed the Registrar’s decision to dismiss defense lawyer Andrew McCartan of Scotland over financial dishonesty.
“The finding that McCartan was financially dishonest is a grave one, especially for a member of the profession of law,” Judge Pillay says in her decision dated 13 May 2002.
On 5 February, the registrar, in a statement signed by Deputy Registrar Lovemore Green Munlo, announced that McCartan, lead counsel for genocide suspect Joseph Nzirorera, is “no longer eligible for assignment to an accused of the tribunal.”
The registrar explained that the decision was made after investigations into fee splitting allegations made by McCartan in a letter dated 12 April 2000. Fee splitting is a practice where a lawyer gives part of his legal fees to a client in order to continue being retained as counsel.
“Investigations conducted by the Registry in the matter revealed evidence supporting, inter alia, that the lead counsel in the particular instance, has inflated his bills of October and November 2000, and did provide his legal assistant with pre-signed blank forms for submission and reimbursement of expenses,” the registrar stated.
McCartan appealed to the ICTR President over the decision, accusing the Registry of denying him his “basic rights.” Among the issues McCartan raised in his appeal were that the Registry denied him a right to a hearing, that the allegations were not been put to him “formally” and that the decision was punitive in effect.
Judge Pillay ruled that McCartan was, indeed, made aware of the allegations and that he was given a chance to comment on them.
Regarding McCartan’s claim that the decision was punitive in effect, Judge Pillay said: “I find, further, that this finding required a high standard of compliance with the requirements of natural justice, and that in that context of this enquiry, that standard was met.”
“Accordingly, I confirm the decision of the Registry,” the judge stated.
A report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) released in February 2000 found evidence of possible fee-splitting arrangements between defense lawyers and their clients at the ICTR and at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The report recommended further investigation into the matter.
On 13 June 2001, Adama Dieng, ICTR Registrar, issued a statement saying he has introduced measures, including restrictions on the giving of gifts by defense attorneys to ICTR detainees, in order to ensure fair trials and prevent the abuse of the tribunal’s legal aid system.
The OIOS report indicated that certain defense attorneys offered money and gifts to their clients so as to continue being retained by them. Dieng restricted the taking of gifts by attorneys to their clients at the United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF) and announced the introduction of strict personal searches of people visiting or meeting with detainees in the UNDF.
According to the OIOS report, a defense attorney serving in the ICTR rejected a detainee’s request for fee splitting and informed the office of the Registrar. A former defense attorney admitted to OIOS that he was compelled to provide support to the family of his client to ensure that he continued to be retained as counsel.
The UN report, noting that the fees received by defense teams were substantial, indicated that depending on the years of experience, lead counsels at the ICTR are remunerated at a rate of $80 and $100 per hour, up to a maximum of 175 hours a month. “Thus an experienced counsel could earn as much as $19,250 in a single month, or more than $230,000 in one year,” the report added.