A fly on the wall of the International Criminal Court


By Matthew Richards

Bright lights, straight lines, glass booths. There’s no room for distractions when it comes to delivering international justice. Up in the viewing platform, the public watches the proceedings unfold from behind large, transparent windows. They eye the smartly dressed individuals working studiously behind banks of computers.

“Microphone,” says the Judge wearily, interrupting the Prosecutor’s question to the witness. The Prosecutor pauses, leans forward awkwardly and clicks a button to turn it on. She proceeds with the question.

The witness sits directly below the Public Gallery, out of sight of the crowd. TV screens broadcast his face – they can see him, but he cannot see them. In the corner of the Courtroom a Security Guard swivels on his chair slightly, eyes moving between the witness and up to the Public Gallery. These are serious discussions about serious crimes.

The questioning resumes and the witness begins his description of events. Not for the last time, the Judges ask the witness to slow down. The interpreters, looking down from glass boxes on either side of the Court, can’t keep up with his description of events. The witness nods, looking uncomfortable.

“Can you draw a map?”, asks the Prosecutor, after a complicated description of the witness’s location on a specific day. A stylus is found and the witness draws a few crude lines onto a screen. It’s broadcast onto the three Judges’ computers and the screens in the Public Gallery. After several minutes of interpretations, the Prosecutor suggests the Court moves on. The Judges agree. “We can all read a map,” says one, raising his eyebrows. “I’m sure you can, your Honour,” says the Prosecutor quickly.

The woman next to the Prosecutor leans quickly over and whispers to her, but the microphone picks it up for all to hear. “The screenshot needs to be saved.” The Prosecutor relays the request to the Court. “I mean, I’m sure it already has been…” she adds, looking apologetically towards the Judge’s platform.

Outside the viewing platform, the members of the public reflect on what they’ve just seen. “This is what the future looked like in an 80’s sci-fi movie,” remarks one. The future, as it turns out, is still run by humans. It’s shiny and it’s sleek and it’s awkward and it’s slow.

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