By Sheenah Kaliisa
ARUSHA (Internews) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has discharged Michael Greaves of the United Kingdom as lead counsel for genocide suspect Prosper Mugiraneza, former Rwandan minister of public service.
“The tribunal discharges Greaves as lead counsel and notes that he is no longer eligible for assignment to an accused suspect of the tribunal,” an ICTR decision signed by Deputy Registrar Lovemore Green Munlo of Malawi states.
Greaves is the second defense lawyer to be dismissed by the ICTR this year. On 5 February, the ICTR registrar announced that Andrew McCartan, lead counsel for genocide suspect Joseph Nzirorera, is “no longer eligible for assignment to an accused of the tribunal.” The registrar made the decision after investigations into fee-splitting allegations made by McCartan in a letter dated 12 April 2000.
Mugiraneza wrote to the ICTR Registry on 28 November and 4 December 2001 requesting the withdrawal of Greaves as his lead counsel.
Mugiraneza accused Greaves of “lack of diligence, delays in the filing of a request for assignment of a co-counsel, lack of scheduling and evaluation of activities and lack of a clear plan for the conduct of the defense, a disagreement on the strategy of the defense, a breach of confidentiality, and a complete break down in communication arising from the disagreement on the strategy of the defense.”
Munlo’s decision notes that when the ICTR submitted Mugiraneza’s complaints to Greaves for comment, the attorney stated that his refusal to enter into a fee-splitting arrangement with his client is the root cause of Mugiraneza’s request for his withdrawal as counsel.
The ICTR statement notes that Greaves only addressed the complaints relating to a lack of communication and breach of confidentiality, and requested to be withdrawn from the case.
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.
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, ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng issued a statement that he had 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 to continue being retained by them. Dieng restricted the transfer 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 are 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.