Lawyers and the ICC

Lawyers and the ICC

Lawyers play an important role in safeguarding the rights of accused persons and victims at the ICC through competent and effective representation. The IBA considers that it is critical for lawyers to engage with the Court by joining the ICC List of Counsel eligible to practice before the Court; keeping informed about developments at the ICC; and by practising in a manner that is consistent with the standards of the Code of Conduct for Counsel.

The IBA monitors legal, institutional and policy developments at the ICC which impacts the legal profession including: review of the Court’s legal aid scheme; amendments to the regulations of the Court on counsel issues; interpretation of the ICC Code of Conduct for counsel; disciplinary proceedings against lawyers appearing before the Court among others.

Read more IBA commentaries, findings and recommendations on these issues

The role of counsel at the ICC

Lawyers may participate in the Court’s proceedings as defence counsel, duty counsel, ad hoc counsel, as assistants to counsel, as legal representatives of victims, as amicus curiae or as a counsel acting for a State. Lawyers who wish to practice before the Court in any of these capacities must meet the criteria of admission to the List of Counsel created and maintained by the Registrar in accordance with Rule 21(2) of the ICC’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE). To be admitted as defence counsel, candidates must satisfy the minimum quality assurance requirements set out in Rule 22 of the RPE and Regulation 67 of the Regulations of the Court. 

ICC List of Counsel and the application process

Legal support for counsel

In order to ensure adequate support for victims, defence and counsel appearing before the Court, two Offices of Public Counsel were created. First, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) has a duty to ensure effective participation of victims in the proceedings before the ICC. The members of the OPCV may be appointed as pro bono legal representatives for victims, but they also provide support and assistance to external legal representatives. Second, the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD) provides support and substantive legal assistance to Defence teams. Members of the Office may be appointed as ad hoc counsel (generally during the initial stages of the investigation) or as a duty counsel.

OPCV official website  OPCD official website

Code of Professional Conduct for Counsel

Counsel appearing before the Court is bound by the Code of Conduct for Counsel (Code of Conduct), adopted by the Fourth Assembly of States Parties in December 2005. It is important to note that Article 1 of the Code of Conduct broadens the definition of counsel to whom the Code of Conduct applies, to include representatives of victims and to counsel acting for a State or organization, and persons making submissions as Amicus Curiae.

The Code of Conduct governs specific matters related to representation by counsel, counsel’s relations with the Court and others. It establishes a disciplinary regime, providing the rules and procedures governing liability and disciplinary procedures, and also provides for an institutional framework establishing a Disciplinary Board and Appeals Disciplinary Board.

The Office of the Prosecutor adopted its own code of conduct in 2013 which includes standards of conduct for all members of the Office, both staff members (including counsel) and elected officials. 

ICC Code of Professional Conduct for Counsel OTP Code of Conduct

Female Lawyers Campaign

In May 2010, the Court together with the IBA launched a campaign aimed at increasing the number of African women lawyers authorised to represent defendants or victims at the ICC.

IBA/ICC female lawyer campaign