This week, Trial Chamber One concluded its voir dire inquiry into the post-arrest custodial interrogation of first accused, Issa Sesay. Defense called three witnesses and the Chamber heard brief closing submissions from each party. On Friday morning, the Bench ruled against the Prosecution—excluding Mr. Sesay’s statements as involuntary on the grounds that OTP investigators took them in breach of the fundamental rights of the accused. Immediately following the Trial Chamber’s oral decision, the main trial resumed, Mr. Sesay returned to the stand, and the Prosecution began its cross-examination.
This voir dire marks the first time an international criminal tribunal has subjected the investigations section of its own prosecuting body to such close and thorough judicial scrutiny. By expounding upon the legal principle of voluntariness in the context of custodial interrogation, Trial Chamber I has made an important jurisprudential contribution to a very underdeveloped area of international law. Hopefully, the standards articulated in the detailed written decision (still forthcoming) will help inform future international criminal investigations and protect the procedural due process rights of accused persons detained by other international tribunals.