Howard Morrison

Interview conducted 21 May 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands, by Linda E. Carter and Leigh Swigart.

headshot of howard morrisonBackground

  • Defense Counsel, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 1998-2004.

  • Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, 2009-16.

  • Judge, International Criminal Court, 2011-present.

Interview Content

In this interview, Judge Howard Morrison reminisces about his application to become the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) defense counsel; his first interaction with a client and first indictment; collegiality and differences in national courtroom practices; the initial sense of hostility toward defense counsel and lack of resources; changes in Arusha from the influx of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR); Rwandan cooperation and concern with ICTR investigations; the mental state of defendants brought before the tribunals; his transition from judging national to international cases; his experiences as magistrate in Fiji; and childhood travels and the desire to take challenging positions.

He discusses cultural obstacles between defense counsel and defendants; the decision to use the adversarial system for the tribunals; the role of defense counsel as a human rights issue for defendants accused of terrible crimes; the role of guilty pleas in international and domestic courts; the importance of Nuremburg and Tokyo in the development of the Ad Hoc Tribunals and the International Criminal Court (ICC); predictions about the future of international tribunals; institutional differences between the ICC and the ICTY and ICTR; the cultural difficulties involved in applying international standards to diverse populations; the best approach to achieve justice on a limited budget; and the nature of the ICC and the role of the Ad Hoc Tribunals' jurisprudence in the ICC.

read full transcript of interview

Biographical Information

Howard Morrison, QC, is a British barrister who was elected as judge of the International Criminal Court in 2011. He has been a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia since August 2009 and is currently sitting on the trial of Radovan Karadzić. As an advocate, called to the bar in 1977, his early regional criminal practice included considerable advocacy before courts martial. He became a QC in 2001, reflective of his achievements as an advocate, including prosecuting the most serious cases for the Crown Prosecution Service, including sexual violence crimes.

From 1998 until 2004, Morrison served as defense counsel in numerous trials before both the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including the Čelebići prison camp and Nikolić cases. As a judge, Morrison was resident chief magistrate of Fiji and senior magistrate of Tuvala, from 1986 to 1988. In the courts of England and Wales, he was appointed a circuit judge in 2004. In 2008, he was appointed a senior judge of the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus.