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About Michael G. Karnavas

photogallery6-michael-courtroom-18-jul-12-3Michael G. Karnavas is an American trained lawyer. He is licensed in Alaska and Massachusetts and is qualified to appear before the various international tribunals, including the International Criminal Court (ICC). Residing and practicing primarily in The Hague, he is recognized as an expert in international criminal defence, including, pre-trial, trial, and appellate advocacy.  Click here to visit Michael’s web site.

Michael G. Karnavas lectures students at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies on the role of defence counsel:

 

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News and Events

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FILM REVIEW: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Abbie Hoffman:


This is a political trial that was already decided for us. Ignoring that reality is just weird to me.

William M. Kunstler:


There are civil trials and there are criminal trials. There is no such thing as a political trial.

In Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, we see legendary civil rights lawyer William M. Kunstler slowly come to the realization that he is in a political trial, requiring a whole different approach to defending the eight (later seven) defendants in one of the most colorful, if not significant, trials in modern American history.

The above exchange in the film between Hoffman and Kunstler comes after opening statements. Kunstler’s epiphany comes well into the trial. Continue reading “FILM REVIEW: The Trial of the Chicago 7”

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POSTSCRIPT: ELECTING THE NEXT ICC PROSECUTOR

Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.                                                                                                                                                                           Mahatma Gandhi

In The 26-year hunt for Africa’s most wanted man, reported by Tom Wilson in the Financial Times (accessible through google), Serge Brammertz comes across as a combination of John le Carré’s George Smiley (methodically and strategically using spycraft with the help of European security agencies, Interpol, and the Rwanda’s National Public Prosecution Authority) and Michael Connelly’s LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch (diligently working a cold case with patience, perseverance, and precision in tracking Félicien Kabuga, accused of organizing the Rwandan genocide). Kabuga was arrested on 16 May 2020 in a Paris suburb. Continue reading “POSTSCRIPT: ELECTING THE NEXT ICC PROSECUTOR”

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Dawn over Midnight: a brighter future for international norms

O! say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light …


Francis Scott Key’s poem The Defence of Fort McHenry, later renamed The Star Spangled Banner, recounts the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. Detained by the British, Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry on the night of 13-14 September 1814. As dawn was breaking, he feared he would see the dreadful sight of the Union Jack flying over Fort McHenry. Instead, elatedly, he saw the Star Spangled Banner, the American flag, proudly standing. The Americans had prevailed. The tumultuous Trump presidency, which, to half the nation and many others around the globe, has felt like an incessant bombardment of insults, venom, and ill-will, is coming to an end. The battle for the soul of America has yet to be won, the struggle for a more perfect union remains, but dawn is breaking. Continue reading “Dawn over Midnight: a brighter future for international norms”

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ELECTING THE NEXT ICC PROSECUTOR: politics v. pragmatism

A prince should always seek advice, but only when he wishes and not when others wish. He must discourage everyone from offering advice unless he asks for it. However, he should inquire constantly, and listen patiently about those things of which he inquired… 

                                                                                           Machiavelli, The Prince

In The Prince – a masterful manual on realpolitik – Machiavelli advises leaders to avoid unsolicited advice, and instead, frequently ask for advice from trusted people and to listen to the advice given. Naturally, Niccolò Machiavelli violates this rule by offering unsolicited advice by way of The Prince – written to curry favor and perhaps secure a position from Lorenzo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence, Duke of Urbino.

Neither having prosecuted nor coveting a position in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and bearing no gifts, I offer these musings to the powers that be who will elect the next ICC Prosecutor.

On 20 October 2020, Reuters reported an exclusive: that according to a diplomat who wished to remain anonymous, the ICC’s oversight body sent the States Parties a letter to inform them that “none of the four nominees had enough support” and proposed to “widen[] the search to include all 14 of the original candidates.”

This should have come as no surprise. Continue reading “ELECTING THE NEXT ICC PROSECUTOR: politics v. pragmatism”

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Book Review — Judges and the Making of International Criminal Law, by Joseph Powderly

Book Review – Judges and The Making Of International Criminal Law, by Joseph Powderly. Brill-Nijhoff, 2020, € 215.

Wherever our theoretical refuge lies, be it abstract or pragmatic, we can say with relative certainty that to embrace a formalist conception of the judicial function (based inextricably on a pious belief in the sanctity of positive rules) is to embrace an intellectual conceit which lacks any basis in the practical reality of contemporary international adjudication, irrespective of the diversity of jurisdictional mandates. (p. 237-38)

I’m no fan of judicial creativity. It’s a slippery slope. What does ‘creativity’ mean? Where are the limits, if any? And if there are limits, how confident can we be that ‘creativity’ is not used as a means of inventing norms, of advancing lex ferenda (what the law should be) agenda, as Professor Antonio Cassese, President and Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), along with his accommodating fellow judges, exuberantly and uninhibitedly did?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, creativity is defined as the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

Do we really want judges to be creative in developing the law?

Professor Joseph Powderly says yes.

Continue reading “Book Review — Judges and the Making of International Criminal Law, by Joseph Powderly”

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The Kosovo Specialist Chambers’ Rules of Procedure and Evidence: More of the Same Hybridity with Added Prosecutorial Transparency

The Kosovo Specialist Chambers’ Rules of Procedure and Evidence: More of the Same Hybridity with Added Prosecutorial Transparency, an article by Michael G. Karnavas, has been published in the International Criminal Law Review.

The Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers incorporates procedural rules from Kosovo’s domestic legal system, innovative and useful modalities, procedural rules, practice directives, and lessons learned from the other international(ised) criminal tribunals. Based on a presentation given by Michael G. Karnavas on 22 June 2018 at Leiden University’s Grotius Centre Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series — The Kosovo Specialist Chambers: Comparative Legal Perspectives — this article provides a defence perspective on some of the modalities found in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. In the author’s opinion, some of the provisions on disclosure provide greater protections of fair trial rights for suspects and accused during the confirmation and pre-trial stages than the rules of other international(ised) criminal tribunals, while also maintaining the schizophrenic features found in these international(ised) jurisdictions — placing the burden of proof on the prosecution while granting the trial judges discretionary authority to engage in truth-seeking activities.

For an earlier discussion of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, see Michael’s seven-part series:

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Reflections on the Cambodian Defenders 25 years later: from humble advocates to legal trailblazers   

Late Saturday night, July 13, 2019, NagaWorld Hotel ballroom, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tables full, food and libations flowing, laughter, music, Khmer traditional dancers, speeches, clinking of glasses, cake-cutting, idle chatter, happy faces, kind words. It’s the graduation party for the newly-minted lawyers having passed the last of their exams after finishing an intensive Bar course. As I look around, I wonder if any of these young Lawyers can fathom a Cambodia with virtually no lawyers, no Bar Association – or BAKC (Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia) as it is known, when at best there were some trained human rights advocates working for NGOs, offering their services to indigent suspects and accused in some parts of Cambodia. Probably not. But yes, there was such a time, and it was not that long ago. Continue reading “Reflections on the Cambodian Defenders 25 years later: from humble advocates to legal trailblazers   “

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The ICC Appeals Chamber’s Judgment in the Jordan Referral: Oh! What a tangled web it weaves when first it practices to conceive

There is neither State practice nor opinio juris that would support the existence of Head of State immunity under customary international law vis-à-vis an international court. (para. 1)

Article 98(1) of the Statute does not itself stipulate, recognise or preserve any immunities. It is a procedural rule that determines how the Court is to proceed where any immunity exists such that it could stand in the way of a request for cooperation. (para. 5)

Resolution 1593 gives the Court power to exercise its jurisdiction over the situation in Darfur, Sudan, which it must exercise ‘in accordance with [the] Statute’. This includes article 27(2), which provides that immunities are not a bar to the exercise of jurisdiction. … Sudan cannot invoke Head of State immunity if a State Party is requested to arrest and surrender Mr Al-Bashir. … Accordingly, there was also no immunity that Jordan would have been required to ‘disregard’ by executing the Court’s arrest warrant. And there was no need for a waiver by Sudan of Head of State immunity. (para. 7)

Judgment in the Jordan Referral re Al-Bashir Appeal, 6 May 2019

Finally, the long-awaited International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber Judgment on Head of State immunity arrived. Unsurprisingly, it contrives to bridge the disparate reasonings of the Pre-Trial Chambers’ decisions while, in no small measure, attempting to expand its international personality and jurisdictional reach. If the United States (US), Russia, and China did not get the Malawi memo – that by virtue of United Nations Security Council (SC) Resolution 1593 they endorse that Heads of States not party to the ICC Statute are not immune from ICC jurisdiction, then the Appeals Chamber’s Judgment in the Jordan Referral re Al-Bashir Appeal (Judgment) puts them on clear notice.

Some will rejoice; others (legal purists and sticklers for applying, as opposed to making, the law) will not. Based on the Judgment, Head of State immunity before international courts is virtually abolished. Continue reading “The ICC Appeals Chamber’s Judgment in the Jordan Referral: Oh! What a tangled web it weaves when first it practices to conceive”

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IRMCT’s lame excuse for inaction: Florence Hartmann gets away with falsely accusing Gen. Praljak’s Defence Counsel with murder

It’s known that it came in with the group that was present at the trial, because he couldn’t have had it in the prison, which casts suspicion on his defense team, or eventually someone from the Embassy; at any rate, someone who had access to Praljak before he entered the courtroom

Florence Hartmann, Express, 19 April 2019, p. 42

Florence Hartmann

Florence Hartmann is no stranger to controversy, to unethical behavior, to criminal activity.  At the apogee of her career at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), she was the mouthpiece and spinmeister for the Office of the Prosecution (OTP), and in particular, Madam Carla Del Ponte, the then Prosecutor. Much to her surprise (hubris can be blinding) she was prosecuted by the very same office for which she worked. She crossed the line by disclosing classified information. Convicted, Hartmann was sentenced to pay a fine of €7,000.1  The imposition of that fine, payable in two installments, was affirmed by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY on 19 July 2011.   Hartmann failed to pay the fine, despite several notices from the Registrar.  On 16 November 2011, the Appeals Chamber converted the fine to a term of imprisonment of seven (7) days.  An inexcusably lenient slap on the wrist for someone who failed to surrender to serve her sentence for over four (4) years.  Hartmann was finally arrested on 24 March 2016.  She was granted early release on 29 March 2016, having served five (5) days in custody.  Ironically, in light of her failure to pay the fine of €7,000, the Registrar found that she was able to remunerate counsel amounting to €59,094.50, and thus was ineligible for legal aid.  That decision was affirmed by the President of the Mechanism in the Decision of of 4 July 2016.

One would think that having fallen from grace and having paid for recklessly transgressing, she would be have learned her lesson, she would have learned to tread lightly, she would have learned to stay out of the limelight – which, in no small measure, got her into trouble in the first place. Continue reading “IRMCT’s lame excuse for inaction: Florence Hartmann gets away with falsely accusing Gen. Praljak’s Defence Counsel with murder”

Footnotes[+]

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The Mueller Report: some takeaway observations

[T]he introductions and executive summaries of our two-volume report accurately summarize this [Special Counsel] Office’s work and conclusions. The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions. … There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure the full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.

Special Counsel Mueller’s Letter to Attorney General Barr, March 27, 2019

Venturing into the debate of the Russian probe, the work of the Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, and the ongoing and what seems like a never-ending saga in conjecturing and opining on what was concluded after two years of investigation based on the March 2019 Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, is about as wise as stirring up a hornets nest without protection. So, I won’t.

My aim is not to make a case one way or another (even if I express my views) on whether Trump and/or his campaign aides and family members conspired with the Russians to influence the results of the elections or whether Trump obstructed justice in trying to influence the integrity and results of the Mueller investigation. I am merely pointing out some reasons why the Report is worth the time to read – even if you could care less about US politics. But first, some general observations. Continue reading “The Mueller Report: some takeaway observations”

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