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UN Legal Counsel discusses closer cooperation with tribunal chiefs in The Hague

By UN

26 January - The United Nations legal chief and the heads of courts and tribunals based in The Hague have held talks this week on how to improve cooperation between the UN and the tribunals set up to deal with war crimes and other grave violations of international law.

Under-Secretary-General Patricia O'Brien, the UN Legal Counsel, is midway through a three-day visit to The Hague, where she has met representatives of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).

In her meetings with officials at the courts and tribunals, Ms. O'Brien stressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's high regard for their work and his strong support for the pursuit of international criminal justice.

At the ICJ, also known as the World Court, Ms. O'Brien met with Judge Hisashi Owada, the court's President, as well as with other judges. They discussed cooperation between the UN's Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) and the ICJ, the role of international law in the modern era, and other issues, according to a press release issued by the court.

Ms. O'Brien said that the UN Secretariat respects the ICJ, one of the world body's principal organs, “not only for the court's crucial role in the peaceful settlement of international disputes between States, but also for its major contribution to the development of international law.”

Yesterday the Legal Counsel visited the ICTY for meetings with Judge Patrick Robinson, the tribunal's President; Judge O-Gon Kwon, the Vice-President; and Serge Brammertz, the Prosecutor.

The so-called completion strategy for the ICTY, which seeks to ensure that all trials are wrapped up within deadlines set by the Security Council, was the focus of those discussions, as well as the court's plans to preserve its legacy across the former Yugoslavia once the trials are finished.

Meanwhile, closer cooperation topped the agenda during talks yesterday between Ms. O'Brien and Judge Sang-Hyun Song, the President of the ICC. The two discussed the Review Conference of the Rome Statute – which more than a decade ago led to the court's founding – that is slated to take place in Kampala, Uganda, in May. Ms. O'Brien also met ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

While in The Hague, Ms. O'Brien met with the STL's President, Judge Antonio Cassese; Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare; and the Head of the Defence Office, François Roux. She also held talks with the members of the trial chamber of the SCSL that is currently hearing the trial of the former Liberian president Charles Taylor.