The president of a newly formed group representing advocates appearing before the International Criminal Court has hit back at criticisms of the body by bar associations.

David Hooper QC (pictured) of 25 Bedford Row said he was 'surprised by the highly critical comments' concerning the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA) which 'bear no relation to the facts'.  

The ICCBA was founded last week to represent counsel and support staff working at the Hague court. However in a statement six bar associations, including the Union Internationale des Avocats and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) urged lawyers not to join.

Hooper, who has appeared at ICC cases for 10 years, said that there is a 'pressing need' for a representative body and that the criticisms 'are based on a misconception of our constitution and role'.

He stressed that the ICCBA is independent of the other organs of the ICC and vigorously contested the group of six's statement that the ICCBA 'does not respect the independence of lawyers'.

He added: 'As a member of the English bar for the past 50 years I adhere to the principle of the independence of counsel and recognise the necessity for this association to maintain that principle.'

Challenging the group's assertion that the association would discriminate against some lawyers by requiring the payment of fees, Hooper said that membership is not mandatory, and that the annual fee of £100 is modest and set by a vote of all members. 

On the group's final criticism, that the body 'does not assure the protection of lawyers put in place by bars and law societies', Hooper said that he did not understand the basis of this statement.

'The ICCBA is not a substitute for any bar,' he said. Rather, it is 'a much-needed, specialist association formed to address the specific issues faced at the ICC.

'We are well aware of the importance of local and national bars and organisations, with whom we hope to develop strong and meaningful ties - including with the Law Society - and to receive their support and advice. We do not intend to supplant them.'