Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 

By Andrea Russell, executive director, Dean’s Office

The Faculty of Law welcomed back alumnus James Stewart, LLB 1975, who was  recently elected deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  The event was organized by the Faculty’s International Human Rights Program.

Speaking to a packed audience of students and alumni, Stewart acknowledged that his election followed an intriguing-- and, to lawyers, relatively foreign-- round of diplomacy at the UN in New York, as well as in Brussels and The Hague.  Ultimately Stewart was elected by a majority of the 121 states parties to the Court, defeating two well-qualified candidates from Australia and Finland in the process.

This will by no means be Stewart’s first brush with the world of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.  While he has spent the majority of his career as crown counsel with Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General,  Stewart was encouraged by another eminent Canadian in the field, The Hon. Louise Arbour, to take leaves of absence from the Crown to work at two of the tribunals that preceded the 2002 establishment of the ICC.  He held senior prosecutorial roles at both the International Criminal Tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, working under Arbour while she was (Chief) Prosecutor of both Tribunals.

Stewart will formally take up his post in The Hague on March 8, 2013.  As such, he spoke in his personal capacity of what he perceived to be key challenges ahead for the relatively young Court.  Prominent amongst those challenges, in his view, will be the quest by numerous states parties to apply their own fiscal austerity measures to the Court.  Despite growing demands for ever more action by the Court, states parties have increasingly been scrutinizing the Court’s budget, which is derived from states parties’ voluntary contributions. 

Stewart also spoke about the need to deal sensitively and effectively with the most vulnerable of the Court’s victims and witnesses, particularly women and children affected by conflicts addressed by the Court.  In response to a question regarding the Court’s current focus on situations in Africa, Stewart echoed the words of the Court’s Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia, regarding the importance of recognizing the victims of the last decade’s worst conflicts, many of which have in fact occurred in Africa.  He also noted that many of the cases from Africa had been self-referred to the Court by African states, and that African nations overwhelmingly supported the ICC’s establishment.

Stewart encouraged the many law students in the audience to undertake internships with international criminal tribunals if at all possible, and indeed the number of the Faculty’s students who had recently returned from such internships and who were in attendance at the talk was impressive in itself.  Stewart also encouraged students interested in working at the ICC to pursue coursework in the area, and to master the practice of criminal law at the domestic level before applying for prosecutorial positions with the Court.