The Registrar notes with great concern that some indigent accused, represented by counsel assigned by the Tribunal, request the withdrawal of their lead counsel just before the commencement of their trials or at the early stages of their trials. Withdrawal of lead counsel at these stages of the proceedings results in a serious financial burden on the limited resources available for the Tribunal’s Legal Aid Programme. Fees and disbursements paid to lead counsel, in most cases over a substantial period, is wasted costs when the said counsel is withdrawn. Further, the Tribunal is compelled to bear additional costs associated with the assignment of new lead counsel.
A change of lead counsel negatively impacts on the pre-trial and preparatory work already undertaken under the direction and authority of the said counsel, as well as the working relationship within the defence teams concerned.
It is worth recalling that in June 2000, the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) conducted an investigation into possible fee splitting arrangements between assigned defence counsel and indigent accused. The OIOS in its Report (A/55/759) of 1st February 2001 noted that fee splitting is linked inter alia, with the accused’s ability to change his/her defence counsel.
To prevent any abuse of the Legal Aid Programme and to efficiently manage its limited resources, co-counsel will not be automatically assigned as lead counsel where lead counsel have been withdrawn, unless exceptional circumstances so require. New lead counsel will be assigned in accordance with the Directive on Assignment of Defence Counsel and the Registrar’s Circular No. 2 of November 1999.