Mark Dillon is the head of Information and Evidence at the International Criminal Court. He is also co-chairman of The Hague Justice Portal, which serves as a web-based gateway to information on the latest developments and events in The Hague in the fields of peace, justice and security.
“I’m Irish and I’m a Catholic. Back in the 50s, the first son would get the farm and the second son would become a priest. So we’ve moved on from that, but I’m the equivalent of my family’s priest. I’m the social conscience of my family. My father was in business, my brother is a captain of industry and another sister of mine is a banker. And I’m the one in this kind of change-the-world mode.
“I think it was always going to be like that. I was always going to do something in this area. I obviously wasn’t always going to be at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because it didn’t exist but it was always going to be – I think at least, from quite an early age, and I don’t know if this is my ego or what – something on a big platform and it was always going to be something world eventy, like international relations or politics or law at a certain level.
Road to the ICC
“I came to the ICC because when I finished my legal studies, I was in London and I was working on tobacco litigation. What happened with the tobacco litigation was that they centred a lot of the evidence in a central location in London. So what happened then is that if tobacco companies wanted to fight a case in Sweden, for example, they would dip into this pool of evidence in London, take what they needed, go back out to Stockholm and defend the case.
“I went from there to another big evidence case in Northern Ireland called the Bloody Sunday inquiry. I did the same thing. I started managing evidence where there was a lot of evidence. Also around this time for the mega trials in London and New York, they started making the courts electronic courts, E-Courts. Once I had moved into this place in Northern Ireland that grounded my ambitions of what I wanted to do.
“After Bloody Sunday, which had something to do with my country and making me aware of the politics around my country, I started to think more in terms of impacting. From there, I went onto a succession of cases that had a big important message. It was when I was in Manchester, finishing a trial of a notorious doctor who killed 250 of his patients in a really small town, smaller than The Hague. It sparked a huge public outcry in Britain, and they had a major public inquiry. I was working on this public enquiry, managing evidence, going into court. That was coming to an end, and I was about to go back to my old firm in London. I decided I needed a change.
“I started to look in The Hague. At that time, the ICC had just opened up; the international Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was still going strong; and also the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had some feet on the ground in The Hague, through the presence of its Appeals Chamber. I had studied in Leiden in 1997, so I was kind of aware of The Hague. So I applied and I came. The longer you stay in a place like this you get trapped by it, you get sucked in by it. I can’t imagine ever now going and doing something in the commercial sphere. I’m in this now, until the end. To one extent or another.
Information and Evidence at the ICC
“Information and Evidence is a unit of about 16 people, and part of the Office of the Prosecutor. The unit itself receives and manages all the evidence collected by staff of the Office. It makes it available for the investigators and the lawyers, and it helps with the disclosure of the evidence to the defence. But it does much more. It does things like Article 15 communications.
“We have another area called E-discovery. That’s when you have a vast volume of evidence and take it down to five per cent, so you need to employ hybrid lawyer-tech types to drill down through the evidence to find what’s relevant. That’s a particular type of science, and we have a particular functioning area to do that.
“Then we have the administration part. The management of the vault, the disclosure of the hard copy evidence, making sure everything is looked after. Kind of the archivist role. So my job is to sit on top of all that and make sure it runs smoothly. My job entails a lot of meetings, strategy, working closely with prosecution and investigation to make sure that if evidence is collected, it should be collected and registered in a certain way.
You really need to psychologically watch your involvement with evidence
“My involvement in a situation or case depends on the complexity of the evidence. If things are complex, I get more involved, and if things are less complex I’m less involved. For the situation of Uganda I have a particular, more personal interest. It’s in English-speaking, and I was there a lot in the early stage of the Office’s investigation. With the situation of Darfur, for example, I’m personally less attached, perhaps due to the fact that I do not understand the language and I have never been on the ground to observe the situation and the people affected by it.
“But as an evidence person you really need to psychologically watch your involvement with evidence. In one of the cases when I was in Northern Ireland, it was the Omagh bombing. It was the last big atrocity of the Northern Ireland troubles, and I think 30 people were killed in this attack. It was very new. It happened in 1998, and I was there the following year. They had psychologists and people around for us.
“At the time I thought ‘why is that, I don’t need that, I’m emotionally strong, I can deal with that’. But in fact, as the evidence was being heard, it was more apparent that we were going to be impacted by this. And people were all over us. Maybe it’s my DNA makeup, but I seem to be less affected by it. But I know that in my daily business, often my colleagues will come and say ‘ok, I can’t look at this evidence, or I can’t get involved with this’ because something will trigger for them. We all have this, like blood or something, that we are not able to deal with. All of the evidence comes through the unit so you can see some bad things.
No one is here by accident
“What makes working at the ICC truly interesting, is that no one is here by accident; no one fell in the door. Everyone is here for a purpose, and you get that sense of purposeness when you walk the corridors. You meet people who are committed to the idea of international criminal justice. A lot of people are quite ideological and righteous about the work they do. So you see these people, and they’re here for this pure goal. They’re not in Wall Street where many of them surely could be. They are here for this international criminal justice project. To make it work. To bring some measure of justice to the many victims of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. And I think I’m one of those people.
“Even after ten years I still feel that this is a very important place. The ICC is starting only now to fire on all cylinders. And I get the feeling that I’m contributing. It’s not like I’m a periphery player. I feel like I’m in the middle of it, and I get that because no case no evidence. No evidence, no case. And every case has evidence, and I’m the guardian, the evidence custodian, so I have a seat at the table almost by virtue of my role. And I feel that I get that sense that I’m making a difference. That’s critical I think. If you lose that and you’re pushed out to the periphery it’s easy to get frustrated, but I don’t have that.
“I think in the context of the ICC, justice means primarily accountability. It’s about ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes and thereby contributing to the prevention of such crimes. Of course, the ICC is only one element, one contributor, to achieving these goals. By its very nature, it cannot do justice everywhere or for all. But its goals are noble. We work for the millions of children, women and men who have fallen victim of unimaginable atrocities that deeply shock the conscience of humanity. I’m completely convinced that’s why I come in to the ICC. To work towards that as a mission. But it’s certainly a challenging, at times even frustrating, work. Its progress, however, is steady, and the world is increasingly understanding its role and importance.”
Lead image: Mark Dillon (Photo: Niklas Jakobsson/Justice Hub)
My Justice highlights the stories of individuals who work in the field of international justice or who have been affected by it and asks what does justice mean to them.