By Kebba Secka / Rohey Jadama reporting from the Hague
Xavier-Jean Keita, a 35 year old Senegalese cum Malian and barrister of Law, who also doubles as the Lead Defense Counsel at the ICC, has faulted the Rome Statute because it left an important gap and makes the office of Public Counsel for Defense (OPCD) on the same structural level with the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the ICC, in order for the two organs to be balanced. “This is why we hope that one day, the ICC will create an organ to enable OPCD to be in the same space with the office of the Prosecutor,” said Keita.
He explained that the OPCD was established in 2006 to promote, represent and protect the rights of defendants and persons entitled to legal assistance, and to raise the profile on defense issues. According to him, Regulation 77 sets out the full mandate of the OPCD, which is summarized in three main functions; that these are to provide assistance to defense team pursuant to Regulations 77 (4) (b); to represent and protect the rights of the defense and act as a defense voice pursuant to Regulations 77 (4) (a) and (b), and to serve as a standby defense team ready to take specific Court assignments pursuant to Regulations 77 (4) (a)-(f).
According to him, the OPCD seeks to create a collective defense memory and resource centre to learn from the experience of individual defense teams and provide whatever legal resources, researches needed.
“The office does not seek to supplant the role of Defense Counsel or Defense bar, but rather to supplement them,” he said.
Further explaining the role of the public defense office, Keita said it is to ensure the judicial activities of the Court, does not prejudice future defendants; that his office represents and protects the rights of the defense during the initial stages of their investigations.
“The OPCD, may also be requested to appear before a Chamber on specific questions of Law,” he explained.
Responding to a question regarding his feeling on the victims who lost cases to the defense, Keita said he does feel for the victims; but that it is how justice plays its tricks; that it has to be balanced. He cited the conditional acquittal of Lauren Gbagbo and others, as cases that the Court did not find sufficient evidence to convict witnesses.