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View Ms. Lyon's video interview from Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal.

Beth S. Lyons

Defense Counsel, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 2004-2005 and 2007-2014; Defense Counsel, International Criminal Court, 2015-present. Lyons Profile Pic

An interview with Beth S. Lyons, conducted on 19 February 2015 in West New York, NJ, by David P. Briand and Leigh Swigart.

Access the full transcript here.

Go to the Brandeis Institutional Repository to conduct a keyword search across the entire Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History collection.

Please use the following citation format: Oral History Interview with Beth S. Lyons (2016), Ad Hoc Tribunals Oral History Project, pages XX, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department, Brandeis University.

Interview content

In this interview, Ms. Lyons reminisces about her transition from Legal Aid in New York City to the ICTR; volunteer work for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Cape Town, South Africa; experiences in Pyongyang for the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Korean War and the work of the Korean War Crimes Tribunal; work with the New York law firm Stevens, Hinds & White; her decision to first apply as list counsel for the ICTR and ICTY and the application process; lack of prior knowledge about the Rwandan conflict before working at the ICTR; visits to prisons to interview witnesses; arrival in Arusha for the first time; financial costs of being defense counsel at the ICTR; culture shock and differences between South Africa and Tanzania; different pay rates for local and international UN workers in Arusha; winning the Nzuwonemeye appeal. She discusses her work with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers; changes in the U.S.-Cuban relationship and the end of the embargo; the UN pay structure; the importance of independent defense counsel in legitimizing international tribunals; the current structure of ICC independent defense counsel and a Revision Proposal to limit independence; the attempt to exclude Alison Des Forges as expert witness in the Simba case and use of her book by prosecutors; witness intimidation in Rwandan prisons and in the Simba case; the ICTR not being bound to accept all of a witness’s testimony; witness preparation and  tampering to push an official narrative; lack of convictions on conspiracy to commit genocide in Rwanda; the importance of good translation and accurate transcripts; the difference between charges of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide; the definition of command responsibility; plea bargaining at the ICTY and ICTR; presumption of guilt and what happens when a defendant is acquitted by an international tribunal; the purpose of genocide tribunals; problems associated with UN pay differentials at the ICTR; experiences defending in the Military II case; comparisons between Legal Aid work and work at the ICTR; similarities between a U.S. bench trial and the ICTR procedure; the appeal of the Nzuwonemeye trial judgment; the process for presenting defense for multiple defendants in one case; reasons for delay in the Ad Hoc Tribunals; the influence of the Nuremburg model on ICTR operations and the need for proof beyond a reasonable doubt to give international tribunals legitimacy.

Biographical information

Beth S. Lyons received a B.A. degree in Political Science from Boston University and a J.D. from the City University of New York Law School. Her professional activities include: Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Division, New York City, 1987-1998; Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Criminal Appeals Division, New York City, 1998-2007; Attorney, Stevens, Hinds & White, P.C., New York, 1990-1992; Assigned Counsel List, ICTR, 2001; Assigned Counsel List, ICTY, 2002; Assigned Counsel List, Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2003; Leader, Investigative Work Missions in Benin, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, 2004-2010; Defense Counsel for Mr. Aloys Simba, ICTR, 2004-2005; Assigned Counsel List, ICC, 2005; Assigned Counsel List, ICTY, 2006-2009; Defense Counsel for Maj. Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, ICTR, 2007-2014; Assigned Counsel List as Lead Counsel, Special Tribunal for Lebanon, 2010; Legal Consultant Roster, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, 2012; Co-Counsel, Situation in the Republic of Kenya, ICC, 2012; Assigned Counsel List, Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, MICT, 2013; Co-Counsel, UN Dispute Tribunal, New York, 2013-2014; Alternate Member, Disciplinary Board for Counsel, ICC, 2014-present.