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Legal Representation Background
The Rome Statute provides for the rights of the accused and of the victims, but not for the organization of the legal representation. To fill the void, proposals were made throughout the ICC process for the establishment of Independent Offices, which would be in charge of organizing legal representation for both defendants and victims. The idea for such offices is one which arose in large part because of the interventions of NGO members of the CICC. The International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association and other Coalition members were concerned that the Statute did not provide sufficiently for the needs of the defense, and that this potential imbalance would prove to be a problem, as they perceive it to have been with the ad hoc tribunals.

Rules 20-22 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence place responsibility upon the Registrar for promoting the rights of the defense and the professional independence of defense counsel through various means of support. Moreover, Chapter 4 of the Draft Regulations of the Registry (April 2004) establishes the duties of the Registrar in relation to the defense, sets up provisions relating to legal teams and addresses the issues of legal aid and training for defense counsel. Chapter 4 also sets grounds for the creation of the Office of Public Counsel for the Defense (in conformity with Regulation 77 of the Regulations of the Court), which, according to the ICC 2006 draft budget, should take place in 2006 and ensure independence for the defendants’ legal representatives. The Defense Support Section, working in the Registry’s Division of Victims and Counsel, is responsible for, inter alia, providing administrative and logistical support to the newly created office, and for managing the list of public counsel entitled to represent defendants and victims before the ICC (Regulations of the Court, 68-73).

Adequate legal representation for victims is also necessary for the victims to exercise their right to participate in the proceedings, as provided for by the Rome Statute. Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence places responsibility upon the Registrar to assist "victims in obtaining legal advice and organizing their legal representation, and providing their legal representatives with adequate support, assistance and information [...]". Rules 89-93 further deal with the participation of victims in the proceedings by establishing the rules related to their legal representation. Furthermore, Regulations 121 to 123 of the Draft Regulations of the Registry give the Registrar the responsibility to ensure victims can choose freely their legal representatives, whereas Regulations 124 to 126 set out the rules regulating the independence of the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (in conformity with Regulation 81 of the Regulations of the Court).
The Office of Public Counsel for Victims, established in accordance with Regulation 81 of the Regulations of the Court, is a new step in international criminal justice system which seeks to ensure effective participation of victims in the proceedings before the Court. It is an important precedent which should enhance the system of representation for victims, who pursuant to rule 90 (1) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Court, are free to choose their legal representatives.