Victims of international crimes and the importance of lawyer-client communication

Published 13 July 2017

Victims of international crimes and the importance of lawyer-client communication

With the advent of victim participation in international criminal trials, victims of international crimes are some of the most vulnerable clients international lawyers can have. The way in which information is conveyed to victims is very important, if not crucial for their participation in the international criminal justice process. Notwithstanding its significance, the manner and methods of effective, but respectful communication between lawyers and victims of international crimes are topics often overlooked in international criminal practice.

This is the focus of one of the chapters in the volume ‘Victim Participation in International Criminal Justice’, edited by Kinga Tibori-Szabó and Megan Hirst, international criminal law practitioners in The Hague. The book is a comprehensive guide to the case-law and practice of victim participation at the International Criminal Court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. One of the aims of the book is to highlight those areas of practice that receive less attention in the legal literature.

In that regard, chapter 15 (co-authored by Barbara Bianchini, Anushka Sehmi, Silke Studzinsky and Kinga Tibori-Szabó) of the book elaborates on the goals, framework and manner of communication between lawyers and victims of international crimes, in the context of legal representation in international criminal trials. It sets out the communication practices between victims and their lawyers at the three courts and provides valuable advice on verbal and non-verbal communication with vulnerable clients. According to Tibori-Szabó, “the chapter also highlights the importance of training legal practitioners to understand the impact of trauma and to treat their clients through this understanding. Respectful and dignified communication with victims of international crimes is a sine qua non to developing the trust of the individual in the international criminal process. There is still a lot to be learned.”

Cultivation of trust

The T.M.C. Asser Institute works on the further development of international and European law in such a way that it serves the cultivation of trust and respect in the global, regional, national and local societies in which it operates. Asser Institute researchers strive for the best fundamental and independent policy-oriented research along three strands: human dignity and security, advancing public interests and adequate dispute settlement and adjudication. Research findings are disseminated through conferences, high-level policy meetings, trainings and publications.


Click here for more information on the book ‘Victim Participation in International Criminal Justice’, edited by Kinga Tibori-Szabó and Megan Hirst.