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When the APS was informed recently that the Registry of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was inviting applications for positions on its list of expert witnesses, InPsych decided to interview some APS members who have experience with the ICC and its predecessors, the War Crimes Tribunals set up for particular jurisdictions.

The United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (UN-ICTY) was established by the UN Security Council in 1993 following serious violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991, and in response to the threat to international peace and security posed by these violations. Located in The Hague, The Netherlands, the jurisdiction is to investigate and hear trials in relation to grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including violations of the laws and customs of war, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The Tribunal's goals are to bring justice to those responsible for crimes, to render justice to the victims, to bring an end to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, and to contribute to peace by promoting reconciliation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 1998, is a permanent court of last resort that tries persons accused of the most serious international crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Expert witnesses are required to be on call to provide objective evidence on aspects of proceedings before the court. Applications are open to both individuals and expert bodies with expertise in fields relevant to the jurisdiction of the Court, which includes the field of psychology. For further information on the application process, visit the ICC at www.icc-cpi.int or email ListOfExperts@icc-cpi.int.  

 

The consultant clinical forensic psychologist

Professor Stephen Woods was the first clinical forensic psychologist to consult at the International Criminal Court, and has been involved in missions in Chad, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He holds professorial appointments at three universities, including the Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention, University of Wollongong.  

 

How did you come to be involved with the ICC and what is your role?

I was headhunted by the ICC because of my expertise in profiling, personality assessment, risk assessment of witnesses (offender and non-offenders) and case management training as well as specialist consultancy. There had previously been no specialist training or support available to the Court, either in the assessment of persons being considered for inclusion in the Court's Witness Protection Program, or in the training of the program's support officers. My work at the ICC has involved the establishment of the Victims and Witnesses Unit's clinical assessment program, profiling of offenders, and provision of training in prevention of vicarious traumatisation to judges, prosecutors and investigators. ICC witnesses can include victims (and their families), and perpetrators who are prepared to assist the Court (and sometimes a combination of the two). All share a history of direct exposure to extreme trauma.

What personal qualities and professional skills have been most valuable to you for this work?

If we are preaching self-care as a means of preventing secondary trauma, we need to practise it ourselves. A sense of humour, building in enforced breaks, working in a team structure to share experiences, and letting your hair down occasionally are all part of the survival kit. I once spent three weeks in Chad where the going was really tough. We took a rest break in the middle and stayed at a resort hotel. I actually organised the first ever St. Patrick's Day party in Chad!

How would you advise APS members who might be considering making themselves available to the ICC as an expert witness, or perhaps working in a counselling/support role in settings such as this?

This is more than ‘just a job' - the opportunities to become involved in the international community are enormous, and for me there has been huge personal growth. There is certainly exposure to the darkest aspects of human behaviour, but what stays with me is how uplifting humanity can be, in the smallest ways. I recall being chased by an entire village in Chad when a market stall holder thought she had overcharged me for two limes.

What immediate and/or longer term implications does the ICC have for the global and Australian communities, and for the psychology profession?

The ICC is still in its infancy, but it is developing from strength to strength. Being involved at this building stage provides an exciting opportunity to shape its processes and get it right. Australian psychology is highly respected in all its manifestations, and the proposal I have just written for a full-time forensic, clinical or counselling psychologist is tailor-made for an Aussie! It doesn't necessarily require years of experience, just a desire to learn and a sense of adventure. Relatively new graduates with relevant backgrounds in community work, counselling or working with victims or refugees might well be suitable.

Is there a take-home message for us?

University training is only the beginning of our professional development as psychologists (and global citizens). I encourage people to develop their areas of interest, look at what's required and set about getting the professional development that will take them there.

The expert witness

Professor Ian Coyle is Director of Safetysearch Forensic Consultants, and a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Forensic Excellence, Bond University. He is one of only two medico-legal psychologists accredited to the ICC, both of whom are Australian.  

 

How did you come to be involved with the ICC?

I was contacted by an officer of the Court and asked to submit my CV. I understand the Court wanted psychologists with a range of skills, particularly those with a multidisciplinary background and extensive practical experience. I have qualifications/experience in forensic psychology, psycho-pharmacology and forensic ergonomics, as well as extensive court experience (I have given expert evidence in these disciplines over 1,000 times in the last
25 years).

What processes did you have to go through to be involved and what is your role?

My role to date has been limited to providing preliminary advice on some elements of training of Court personnel. However I have had all the inoculations necessary for me to travel to Africa where much of the Court's work has originated. When the ICC contacts one of their accredited experts, time is of the essence, so it is necessary to have all these done (rabies, cholera, hepatitis A/B, tetanus, pertussis, etc.) just to be on standby. The Court refunds these costs when an expert undertakes work on behalf of the Court. The vetting process also requires a police clearance, which takes time. When you are contacted, the ICC requests your passport to be sent by international courier, and the Court organises the visas and sends it back. So there is little notice of when and where one might go, which is difficult for anyone in full-time employment.

How would you advise APS members who might be considering making themselves available to the ICC as an expert witness?

Unless one has had extensive court experience I would not advise any psychologists to make themselves available. Giving evidence before some of the world's most senior jurists in the most challenging of matters, both academically and emotionally, is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those without years of experience in cross examination.

Is there a take-home message for us?

Perhaps the most important aspect of the ICC's work as far as Australian psychologists are concerned is the recognition of the high standing we have in the international community.

The support officer

Monika Naslund worked as a support officer in the Victims and Witnesses Section of the UN-ICTY. Monika had completed studies in community and counselling psychology, and is now back in Melbourne, lecturing at Victoria University.  

 

How did you come to be working at the ICTY and what was your role?

Having worked as a counsellor/advocate with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, and completed a Masters thesis exploring the symptomatology of war-related trauma in adolescents, I felt compelled to apply when the support officer role for the UN-ICTY was advertised.

So for almost six years, my home became The Hague and I immersed myself in the support officer role, which was to ensure the physical, psychological and emotional safety of victims and witnesses testifying before the Tribunal, and where possible, to enable the experience to be empowering for the victim, and contribute to their recovery. I was on hand to provide psychological support to witnesses, and I also advocated on their behalf to judges and legal staff during trial proceedings. The role involved assessment prior to the person testifying, monitoring, and when required, intervening directly during their testimony, and providing debriefing afterwards.

In addition to this direct clinical role, I provided information, education and training to key organs within the Tribunal and relevant external government and non-government agencies about the effects of (and relationship between) war-related trauma and the process of testifying. Finally, I worked within the Witness Protection Program, providing psychosocial support and advocacy to witnesses for whom returning home after giving testimony was deemed unsafe.

What personal qualities were most valuable to you during that time?

A personal quality that seemed to cross all the 96 nationalities working at the UN-ICTY and the various professions (judges, prosecutors, administrators, police, journalists and support officers) was a strong professional work ethic, evident in the respect and commitment of staff to the institution and its processes. Unfortunately, for many (including myself) this often resulted in a work-life balance that seemed ‘all work' during trial periods and then finally, during recess periods, would come the rest, which typically involved travelling home to visit family and friends. In 2002 a clinical psychologist was appointed as Staff Welfare Officer to address issues of stress, burnout and vicarious traumatisation amongst staff.

What did the experience mean for your professional development as a counselling and community psychologist?

For me, this role was a dream. It allowed me to develop and employ counselling skills within the context of a key community psychology principle: supporting people's successful access and participation within vital community institutions, thereby offering healing and recovery opportunities. Time and again I witnessed the powerful impact on individuals of testifying before this Tribunal. To contribute to making this experience safe, respectful and meaningful for victims and witnesses was a privilege. It was some of the most therapeutic work I have ever done!

Now you are back in Australia, how do you feel when you read about events such as the death of Slobodan Milosevic or the capture of Radovan Karadzic?

It still physically hurts me to think about the effects of the sudden death of Milosevic. This particular trial seemed to evoke in people something extraordinary: staff associated with it, whether prosecution, defence, the registry or the chamber, and witnesses whether victim or expert, knew they were contributing to an internationally significant legal process and seemed absolutely committed to doing their best.

I, like many of my colleagues, believed I would leave the Tribunal when the Milosevic trial concluded. Due to other circumstances, my departure came sooner than expected, and I was in Australia when the news came of his death. I just remember thinking "It can't be - what about the verdict?". Milosevic died just 40 hours before the conclusion of four years of trial evidence of extraordinary intensity. What his death signalled primarily for me was all that dedication and hard work, all that financial cost, all those remarkably courageous witnesses - for what? The recent events of Karadzic's arrest and presence now in The Hague awaiting trial at the ICTY may mean that, potentially, the work invested by everyone involved in Milosevic's trial can be applied in this one. One can only hope to see a verdict reached this time.

How would you advise APS members who might be considering making themselves available to the ICC as an expert witness, or perhaps working in a counselling/support role in settings such as this?

This support role within an international criminal court was the first of its kind, created in the ad-hoc tribunals of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Based on these models, the permanent ICC and the Special Court in Sierra Leone adopted support processes for victims and witnesses. I encourage any APS member with a background in war-related trauma who is considering working in an ICC setting, whether as an expert witness or in a support role, to make direct contact with the Courts and inform them of your interest and availability.

Thanks to Heather Gridley for conducting these interviews.