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Hague judge order lawyers to ditch traditional wigs

A justice at the International Criminal Court tells lawyers not to wear horse-hair wigs – because it’s not official garb.

LAWYERS AT THE International Criminal Court in the Hague have been asked to shed their wigs next time they appear before a particular judge.

A handful of lawyers appeared in traditional black gowns and white horsehair wigs for a preliminary hearing yesterday, in a case dealing with violence after Kenya’s disputed 2007 presidential election.

Justice Ekaterina Trendafilova paused briefly at the end of the hearing to pass a hair-raising judgment. ”This is not the dress code of this institution,” she said.

“In this quite warm weather maybe it will be more convenient to be without wigs,” she added with a smile.

It is unusual for lawyers to appear at the International Criminal Court in wigs, but it is not unheard of. At least three lawyers wore wigs during the initial appearance of three Kenyan suspects on April 8, without Justice Trendafilova issuing any dress code guidelines.

Steven Kay, one of the lawyers wearing a wig yesterday, said the court’s registry gave him the option of wearing Dutch lawyer’s garb or the English version of wig and gown.

“I was not aware before the proceedings of any rule that there were no wigs at the ICC,” Kay told AP in an email.

Court spokesman Fadi El Adballah said there were no specific rules about wigs, and it is up to individual judges to run their courtrooms “in a harmonious way”.

Trendafilova decided that since wigs are not mandatory, it would be better for all lawyers to have the same dress code — in this case without wigs, he added.

David Hooper, another British barrister who appeared in court Monday, did so without his wig.

In 2006, Serb nationalist Vojislav Seselj refused to accept a be-wigged Hooper as a court-appointed defence lawyer because he wanted to defend himself at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.

“This man with a bird’s nest on his head has been falsely introduced as my counsel,” Seselj told the court, referring to Hooper’s wig. “He will never be my defence counsel.”

- AP