Journal Article

Ethical Standards for Prosecution and Defence Counsel before International Courts

Arman Sarvarian

in Journal of International Criminal Justice

Volume 10, issue 2, pages 423-446
Published in print May 2012 | ISSN: 1478-1387
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1478-1395 | DOI:
Ethical Standards for Prosecution and Defence Counsel before International Courts

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There exists no international bar that regulates the practice of forensic advocacy before international courts and tribunals. This lack of common ethical standards for representatives before international courts and tribunals has become increasingly topical. Initiatives by such professional organizations as the International Law Association and the International Bar Association to identify universal ethical principles suggest that there is a body of opinion amongst practitioners that common ethical standards are necessary. Despite the wealth of literature on the Nuremberg trial, the historical record has never been studied from the specific standpoint of the professional ethics of counsel. This article examines the historical record of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) to draw historical lessons. In doing so, a fascinating and, in some respects, astonishing narrative is revealed of the actions of certain individuals and the lax standard of professionalism set by the IMT. The lessons from the Nuremberg experience are an invaluable cautionary tale in the capacity of counsel to endanger or safeguard the integrity of judicial proceedings and, consequently, their overall legitimacy. As the proto-international bar gradually organizes itself into a profession and as professional ethics for prosecutors becomes increasingly contentious before the International Criminal Court, a closer examination of the Nuremberg legacy provides compelling material for the need for common and robust ethical standards for counsel practicing before international courts and tribunals.

Journal Article.  11328 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law ; International Law

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