24 January 2011
On the Track of Justice - CAR #5
24 January 2011
Produced by Interactive Radio for Justice
Host: Hello ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us to listen to your
program, On the Track of Justice, produced by Interactive Radio for Justice in
cooperation with Notre Dame of Bangui Radio in Central African Republic and the
Goma-based La Colombe Radio in the DRC. As you may already know, the case of
The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo started on 22 November 2010; but who
are these people who work day and night to render justice? Our team interviewed
various actors of this trial before the International Criminal Court, here in The
Hague, in The Netherlands, so that you may be informed about their personalities,
their experience and their understanding of the trial. In this program, we have
interviewed Ms. Petra Kneuer, who is a lawyer at the International Criminal Court,
and without wasting any more time let us now go to her office at the ICC.
* * *
Journalist: Ms. Petra Kneuer, you are a lawyer at the International Criminal Court.
Petra Kneur: Hello.
Journalist: What is your nationality?
PK: I am German.
Journalist: Why did you want to move to The Netherlands and work for the
International Criminal Court?
PK: As Prosecutors, we play a wider role in vindicating the rights of the victims and
supporting the rule of law. For me nowhere is this role more underscored than
working as a prosecutor at the ICC, where the accused are prosecuted for the
gravest offences that can be committed, crimes against humanity, genocide and war
crimes. I was motivated by the objective to contribute to the broad effort to protect
society against those heinous crimes and to help deter such conduct by bringing to
justice those responsible for such atrocities. The rigorous criminal prosecution of
these offenders will help deter future violations since it would send a message to
would-be violators that [they] cannot commit such crimes and escape with
impunity. Last, it is our duty to stand up for people who cannot speak for
themselves. We are the voice of victims. Our duty is not only to bring justice to them;
by investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators we also empower and free the
victims. We bring recognition to the international community in the ICC courtrooms
24 January 2011
Journalist: What is your experience as a lawyer before you were recruited by the
PK: I am a career prosecutor, with 19 years of work experience, of which over 15
years as a litigator and manager. I started working as a prosecutor at the state level
and then became a federal prosecutor working [on] terrorism cases. Following the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I served as Germany’s principal liaison
officer to the counter-terrorism section in the United States.
Journalist: Ms. Petra, we also call you doctor. What is your doctorate?
PK: I gained a PhD in Law in Germany.
Journalist: Thank you. Is the trial of Jean Pierre Bemba different from any other
trial you had to conduct?
PK: This question is not simple to answer. It is complex and requires distinctions.
On the one hand, I would say there are no differences to cases I tried in my national
system, because there are significant similarities in fighting terrorism with its global
acting network and pursuing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war
crimes. First, all such crimes are of international character and thus rely on
international leader cooperation. Second, all of those offences threaten values
shared by the community of nations. And third, all of those crimes cause
devastation, pain, and suffering to innocent victims and their families, and have
long-lasting destabilisation effects on society. On the other hand, there are
differences because the circumstances of conducting investigations and the nature
of the evidence being available for collection are different. For example, the
International Criminal Court does not have its own police, with its own powers to
operate in the respective countries. We have to be very concerned with
confidentiality of our investigations in order to protect witnesses and victims. There
are cultural barriers and also barriers with regards to language. And the last
example, usually when the Court starts [an] investigation the conflict and the crimes
occurred years before, so it is very difficult to collect and obtain documentary
evidence due to the time lapse. For example, in terrorist cases, a very powerful piece
of evidence is wiretaps of telephone or email communication.
Journalist: Had you worked in Africa before?
PK: I had never worked in Africa before working for the ICC.
Journalist: Can you describe what a typical day’s work is like for you?
PK: Well, usually I get up by 6am and leave my house by 7:30am to bike to the office.
I will start working around 8am and until the entire staff comes to the office, I
mainly check my emails, review filings to the Chamber, study decisions from the
Chamber. I hold meetings with my team in order to discuss how we will manage the
evidence and prepare for the trial. I also meet with colleagues from other units or
24 January 2011
divisions, for example, colleagues from the gender crimes unit, or colleagues who
provide advice to the team on security of witnesses. Another duty I have is to
consult and to advice the Executive Committee, meaning the Prosecutor, the Deputy
Prosecutor and the Head of Divisions. And in the current phase of the case, the main
focus is on preparation of the examination of witnesses in Court. So basically there
are three major duties I have. The one is to prepare the trial, to deal with the
evidence; the other one is to take care of the litigation, meaning filings, disclosure to
the Defence; and the last one is [to] hold meetings in order to prepare best for the
next steps to be taken. And by the end of the day, which, the day can end anywhere
between 6pm and midnight, I bike home and if I have time I do sports to relax.
Journalist: Ms. Petra Kneur, thank you very much.
PK: You are most welcome.
* * *
Journalist: Well, we are now reaching the end of our program On the Track of
Justice. Thank you for following it. On the Track of Justice is a production of
Interactive Radio for Justice in cooperation with Notre Dame of Bangui Radio in
Central African Republic and the Goma-based La Colombe Radio. You will hear
Abdon Manengu and Richard Goutia, respectively host and technical producer, in
our next program, of course.
[Translated and transcribed by Sandrine Gaillot]