Plea Bargaining at the Hague
35 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2005
Plea bargaining has come to The Hague. For most of its existence, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) shunned plea bargains. However, under pressure from United Nations member states and the impending deadline for the resolution of its caseload, the ICTY has increasingly relied on plea bargains in recent months. This Article exposes the deficiencies in guilty plea procedures at The Hague, particularly those designed to assess whether a plea is fully informed and voluntary. In a series of case studies, the Article argues that judicial questioning techniques have exploited the vulnerable state of defendants appearing before the court - a disadvantage further entrenched by defense counsel who are unfamiliar with the process of plea bargaining. The inadequacies of plea bargaining at The Hague are particularly important in light of the ICTY's role in setting precedents for other international criminal tribunals. As such, the Article concludes by offering curative measures to ensure greater fairness in the international plea bargaining process. Most notably, the Article proposes that the ICTY should move toward an American-style plea bargaining system to ensure that pleas satisfy standards of procedural fairness.
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