Thursday Thinkpiece: Hunter on the International Criminal Court Case Matrix

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Emilie Hunter
in Innovations in Rule of Law, J. Botero, R. Janse, S. Mulle & C. Pratt Eds.
The Hague: The Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law & The World Justice Project, 2012

Excerpt: pp. 30 – 31

The [International Criminal Court] Legal Tools Database (LTD) is the largest online library of documents relevant to the practice of international criminal law. Designed by the Office of the Prosecutor between 2003 and 2005, the LTD contains over 57,000 documents, including national legislation, national cases of core international crimes, international cases and legislation, all preparatory works of the ICC, its Statute, rules, regulations, judgments, decisions and orders, and relevant international and regional human rights decisions. Documents can be accessed through a series of “folders” or through an efficient and easy to use search engine, and are provided free of charge to anyone with an Internet connection. In collating and verifying these materials, the LTD provides all national actors with the raw materials they need to inform themselves on core international crime adjudication, in a centralised, stable and trusted location.

The Case Matrix Network (CMN) compliments the Legal Tools Database by providing services to assist in the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of core international crimes. The Case Matrix application breaks down the substantive elements of core international crimes, showing investigators, prosecutors, defence counsel or judges the means of proof that is required for each crime, its contextual elements and specific elements, as well as the modes of individual liability that must be assigned to every individual for every crime that they are charged with committing.

The Case Matrix consists of two analytical digests of the elements of crime and modes of liability required to successfully prosecute core international crime conduct, running to over 7,500 pages. If a prosecutor needs to know the means of proof required to successfully prosecute rape as a crime against humanity, or the recruitment of child solders as a war crime, they can, at the click of a button, view concise analysis of these requirements, as well as the exact paragraphs of previous international and national judgments. The Case Matrix application also enables different users to organise case files where the conduct may amount to core international crimes, testing where evidence is weak or insufficient, in a secure environment. It is designed to strengthen the ability of national actors to conduct investigations and trials for conduct that may fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction by empowering the national professionals involved. The Case Matrix is provided free of charge, following the signature of a user undertaking and it does not require Internet access. It is currently used by 125 institutions, including judiciary, prosecution services, defence counsel, government ministries, NGO’s, international and hybrid tribunals.

Core international crime cases consist of a complex web of evidence and materials that link incidents to suspects, victims and witnesses. The Case Matrix helps to organise that evidence and material. But criminal justice systems also face challenges due to the quantity of cases, and failure to comprehend the scale and nature of prosecutions across a country can lead to a number of rule of law issues. Without an overview of open case files, prosecutorial strategies including the prioritisation or selection of cases (according to criteria such as gravity, seriousness etc.) can unwittingly incur selective bias. Due to the expected quantity of open cases, prisons can become over-crowded, suspects can get “lost” in remand and delays can mount up without a clear overview of where the bottlenecks occur. Districts may prosecute particular crimes or ethnic groups disproportionately according to the known facts, requiring a laborious and time-consuming effort to gather statistics that could demonstrate this. The Database of Open Case Files designed by the Case Matrix Network addresses these challenges and has been used in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The use of technology-aided tools, as well as the information provided therein, can help overcome the complexity of core international crime cases by providing knowledge directly to national practitioners, within their work environment, on a permanent basis. While empowering and informing criminal justice actors sustainably, this can improve the quality and effectiveness of their work and reduce unnecessary repetitions and mistakes, thereby contributing to the reduction of costs associated with criminal justice based on international human rights standards.

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