Report by Dainyah Mason, recipient of the 2018 Johan Steyn scholarship to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
My time at the International Criminal Court was possibly the most unique intern experience possible. I was placed in the judges’ chambers on the Prosecutor v Bosco Ntaganda case. When I joined the team in January, they were in the final stages of drafting the conviction judgment. I had to get myself up to speed on the case fairly quickly and read through the parties’ closing submissions and the decision confirming the charges before being assigned my first task.
My first assignment was to review the witness credibility section of the judgment for coherency of argument and accurate references. It was an emotionally draining exercise and took some time to read through each witness’s testimony. I was entrusted with reviewing 6 witnesses out of the 16 witnesses whose credibility needed assessing. From the witness credibility section, I carried out similar tasks for the Factual Findings section of the case; generally focusing on consistent formatting and accurate references.
I made my first major contribution to the judgment drafting by writing the background section, recounting Ntaganda’s personal history and his military experiences leading up to his appearance before the court. When the judgment was complete, I attended court for the delivery.
I was fortunate enough to have my internship extended to carry on with the team for the sentencing procedure of the case. The team was much smaller than before and I was given more responsibility; there was one week where I was technically acting as the chamber because I was the only member of the chamber present.
During sentencing, I drafted decisions for the admission of evidence based on my assessments of the parties’ submissions which were later checked and approved by my supervisor. I conducted research for procedural issues that arose in the lead up to the sentencing hearings. An interesting issue that arose was the use of evidence regarding another person accused by the court.
During the hearings for the additional witnesses on sentencing, I condensed the witnesses’ evidence into digestible reference documents to ease the overall judgment drafting process. I finished my internship with the delivery of the sentencing decision which will be remembered as the harshest sentence the court has ever ordered. I am fortunate to have been able to see the case through to the end and work on two whole judgments.