Describe briefly the work of the OTP and your experience prosecuting core international crimes
The OTP is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. I have been working as an Assistant Trial Lawyer on the case against Bosco Ntaganda (charged with 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the DRC between 2002 and 2003, including murder, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers among other crimes) since 2013, when he surrendered himself to the ICC. I am a member of a trial team responsible for presenting the Prosecution’s case to the Trial Chamber seized of the case. The trial opened in September 2015, and since then my role has been to examine witnesses and assist the other lawyers on the team as they prepare for and examine the Prosecution witnesses testifying before the Court.
What drew you to work in this field after several years of domestic practice? Has it met your expectations?
I have long wanted to work internationally, even before choosing a career in law. I was fortunate to have had a diverse and interesting domestic legal practice, but find my present work in international criminal law even more fulfilling. One aspect of this position that I did not anticipate, and which I find really rewarding, is working in such a diverse office with lawyers from different legal systems and backgrounds.
What are some of the major challenges prosecutors in this field are currently facing?
From my perspective, a major challenge to investigating and prosecuting international crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court is one of cooperation and access. The Rome Statute created a system of international criminal justice where the Court does its judicial work but relies on the full cooperation of its States Parties so that it can undertake that independent work, effectively. Full and timely cooperation is key to the successful discharge of the Court’s mandate. The other aspect is one of funding. The OTP must have the requisite resources at its disposal to effectively investigate the crimes and bring the perpetrators to trial in a comprehensive and compelling manner, as well as being able to connect with victims and witnesses reasonably close in time to when the crimes occurred. This can often be complicated when the work must be carried out in situations of ongoing insecurity.
What does international criminal justice mean to you?
It means working together as an international community to ensure that the gravest international crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction do not go unnoticed or unpunished.
Tell us about one of your most memorable or inspiring experiences while working for the ICC
Every encounter I have had with a Prosecution witness. These are very large cases and so much of our work seems to happen in the abstract, focusing on the case from the point of view of the elements of the crimes. So when you have the opportunity to engage on a personal level with a person who was willing to leave their life for a period of time, sometimes at a risk to their personal safety, to travel here and share intimate details of an incredibly harrowing event – that is a remarkable experience. I feel honoured to be involved in the process.
What advice would you give to fellow lawyers who are considering a move from domestic practice to working at an international court?
Be patient and determined and lucky. This is an incredibly competitive field that does not provide certainty or job security, and it is unlikely to be a simple, smooth transition. I was humbled by leaving my relatively secure career in Canada for an unpaid position at the Court. There were many times when I questioned the wisdom of that decision, but I maintained my focus and feel incredibly grateful for how it turned out for me.
If you are interested in contacting Kristy, to find out more about the transition from domestic practice to working at an international court, you can reach her at: Kristy.Sim@icc-cpi.int