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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

  • On 24 February 2017, the Edward Elgar Publishing published a chapter co-authored by Kate Gibson, John RWD Jones QC, Michael G. Karnavas and Melinda Taylor, titled Regulation of the International Bar: The Particular Challenges for Defence Counsel at the International Criminal Courts and Tribunalsin Research Handbook on International Courts and Tribunals (William A. Schabas and Shannonbrooke Murphy eds., 2017). This chapter examines and evaluates the different structures (independent, internal and external) protecting and regulating the defence profession at the various international and mixed criminal courts and tribunals, and identifies defects and lacunae in the current infrastructure.
  • In November-December 2016, Michael G. Karnavas was selected by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Serbia as the International Consultant to make an assessment and submit a report with specific proposals for reform and improvement of the institutional and regulatory framework of the Attorney’s Academy (Academy) of the Bar Association of Serbia (BAS), and to recommend a detailed program for the organization of the training activities and a strategic plan for a long term (2-3 years) Continuing Legal Education program.  The BAS is a national “umbrella” bar for eight regional bars with approx. 8000 members. The BAS established the Academy in 2013 for the purpose of providing professional training for Serbian lawyers and trainees.  As part of the assessment, Mr. Karnavas went on two field visits (5-7 December and 18-21 December 2016) to conduct a series of interviews with the representatives of the BAS, the Ministry of Justice, the Judicial Academy, civil societies, and NGOs. Mr. Karnavas submitted a preliminary report 29 December 2016.

Continue reading “News and Events”

‘THE SITUATION OF MASS MURDER IN THE PHILIPPINES, RODRIGO DUTERTE: THE MASS MURDER’: testing the ICC-OTP

It was only a matter of time.

Just as Duterte was entreating a crowd at a public gathering “Give me salt and vinegar and I’ll eat his [terrorist] liver” because he is “50 times harder” than ISIS, a communication was being lodged against him at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly murdering thousands of Filipinos in his war on drugs. 8000 victims and counting1The communication claims that based on official statistics from the Philippine National Police, there were more than 7000 drug-related killings by police and unknown armed persons from 1 July 2016 to 21 January 2017. The Situation Of Mass Murder In The Philippines Rodrigo Duterte: The Mass Murderer, by Jude Josue L. Sabio, p. 8. since elected as President of the Philippines in May 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has turned hubris – a crime in ancient Greece from the time of Solon in the 6th century BC – into an art form. Continue reading “‘THE SITUATION OF MASS MURDER IN THE PHILIPPINES, RODRIGO DUTERTE: THE MASS MURDER’: testing the ICC-OTP”

Footnotes   [ + ]

Russia argues no specific direction for the downing of Flight MH17

On 7 March 2017, Samuel Wordsworth QC, one of Russia’s lawyers appearing before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Ukraine v. Russian Federation, argued that Russia could not possibly be held responsible for shooting down Flight MH17 because there is no evidence (as if one would expect to find a memo to the rebels) that Russia “provided weaponry to any party with the intent or knowledge that such weaponry be used to shoot down a civilian aircraft, as would of course be required under Article 2(1).”1 International Court of Justice, CR 2017/2, in the case concerning Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation), Transcript Oral hearing, 7 March 2017, submissions by Mr. Wordsworth for Russian Federation, p. 35. Article 2(1) of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism provides: “Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person by any means, directly or indirectly, unlawfully and wilfully, provides or collects funds with the intention that they should be used or in the knowledge that they are to be used, in full or in part, in order to carry out: (a) An act which constitutes an offence within the scope of and as defined in one of the treaties listed in the annex; or (b) Any other act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

Rather rich, as arguments go.

The subtext of Wordsworth’s argument is that yes, Russia provided weapons – including the type that shot down MH17 – and yes, the rebels (or freedom-fighters or whatever denomination one affixes to them) were expected to use those weapons, but no, Russia did not authorize or specifically direct them to shoot at civilian aircraft. Continue reading “Russia argues no specific direction for the downing of Flight MH17”

Footnotes   [ + ]

Striking Syria: is there international law or is there only power?

Was President Trump legally justified in striking Syria over Assad’s use of chemical weapons?

In February 2014, I was invited by the Brown University International Organization to hold a seminar: Red lines and Game Changers – The Legality of Unilateral or Collective Use of Force in Syria. The topic was inspired by President Obama’s public pronouncement that any use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would cross a read line, bringing to bear a military reaction by the U.S. with or without approval from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Continue reading “Striking Syria: is there international law or is there only power?”

And the waiting goes on …

Oral arguments in Prlić et al. concluded this Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Appeals Chamber – some 12 years since I began representing Dr. Jadranko Prlić.  The Appeal Judgement is expected by November.  When all is said and done, it will have taken over 13 years from the time the accused turned themselves over to the ICTY to the conclusion of the appeal proceedings.

What a journey!  Lawyers, assistants, investigators, and interns have come and gone.  Babies born, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers departed. Heart attacks suffered, kidneys replaced, weight gained, hair lost. Engagements, affairs, marriages, and divorces. And wrinkles, lots of wrinkles. No one spared. Continue reading “And the waiting goes on …”

Sentencing Judgment in Article 70 case at the ICC: No accumulation of sentences, suspended sentences & deduction of time

On 22 March 2017, the Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) pronounced the sentences in the Bemba et al. Article 70 case, following its judgment on 19 October 2016, where it found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu, and Narcisse Arido guilty of various offenses against the administration of justice in Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo (Main Case).

Three interesting points came out of the sentencing: 1) even if an accused is convicted of multiple Article 70 offenses, the maximum sentence he or she can face is five years; 2) the Trial Chamber has inherent discretionary power to suspend a sentence; and 3) time may be deducted in cases where the accused is already serving his or her sentence in another case. Continue reading “Sentencing Judgment in Article 70 case at the ICC: No accumulation of sentences, suspended sentences & deduction of time”

Bakir Izetbegović’s political stunt quashed by the International Court of Justice

The Court duly examined the various communications described above. The Court considered that their content demonstrates that no decision has been taken by the competent authorities, on behalf of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a State, to request the revision of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia), and that it is therefore not properly seised of the matter. Accordingly, no action can be taken with regard to the document entitled “Application for revision of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia)”1 International Court of Justice, Press Release No. 2017/12, Document entitled “Application for revision of the Judgment of 26 February 2007 in the case concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia)”, Statement by H.E. Judge Ronny Abraham, President of the International Court of Justice, 9 March 2017, p. 2.

As predicted, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made short work of the so-called Bosnian application to have the 2007 decision in the Serbia Genocide case revised (reconsidered).  Swiftly and unceremoniously, Bakir Izetbegović’s request was dismissed for what it was: a divisive political ploy to garner publicity, devoid of any legal grounding and – surprise, surprise –  ultra vires to boot. Continue reading “Bakir Izetbegović’s political stunt quashed by the International Court of Justice”

Footnotes   [ + ]

Bosniak Member of the BiH Presidency asks the ICJ to reconsider the Serbia Genocide Case

“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”1 Perhaps the most memorable and exquisite quote of American professional baseball player, manager, coach, and Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra.

On 23 February 2017, it was reported that “Bosnia” filed a formal request with the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) to reconsider its 2007 decision in the Serbia Genocide case, in which it found that Serbia had neither been involved in nor committed genocide. The ICJ did however find, curiously, that Serbia “violated the obligation to prevent genocide, under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in respect of the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica.”2 International Court of Justice (“ICJ”), Case Concerning Application of The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of The Crime of Genocide, Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro, Judgment, 26 February 2007, para. 471.

Bakir Izetbegović

Bosnia and Herzegovina (“BiH”), the actual name of the country, did not file for reconsideration.  What was submitted to the ICJ – which has yet to be made public3Last checked 7 March 2017, the ICJ public record does not show the application filed on the 23rd of February 2017. – was a unilateral request by one of the three members of the BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović (the son of Alija Izetbegović), currently serving as the Bosniak member of the Presidency of BiH.

Some facts may be useful to understand why this request indubitably is a political ploy, a publicity stunt, not a legitimate request that merits consideration by the ICJ. Continue reading “Bosniak Member of the BiH Presidency asks the ICJ to reconsider the Serbia Genocide Case”

Footnotes   [ + ]

“But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?”

Michael,


I notice that you express admiration for Judge Bohlander’s integrity here but do not say the same for Judge Bunleng. I presume this is because he refused to investigate at all in Cases 003/004? It’s been several years since I followed KRT developments closely. Perhaps you can enlighten me.


We have yet to see the reasoning behind the dismissal for Chaem and I know very little of Judge Bohlander, having left the country some time before he started work.


But to a non-legal observer, two very sad questions jump to the fore:


1) OCIJ’s decision not to exercise jurisdiction over Chaem took eight years. Isn’t this what lawyers would call a “threshold” matter best disposed of at the beginning? And can’t it be decided without examining much of the evidence supporting the charges?


I interviewed victims and witnesses from crime scenes allegedly overseen by Chaem. They told me how much they suffered.


Did this process build up hopes of justice only to let them down, not by deciding guilt or innocence but on what to the general public will appear to be an abstruse technicality? One baked into the process not by impartial judges but during heavily politicized negotiations?


2) Please help me understand — how could the ECCC accept jurisdiction over Duch but not over Chaem? In making this decision, is Judge Bohlander at odds with the court’s own jurisprudence?


Duch may have been responsible for the systematic extermination of 12,000 to perhaps 20,000 people. Chaem, if rough OCP estimates are to be believed, had a hand in a number of deaths that could quadruple the upper bound of Duch’s death toll.


But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?


Douglas Gillisson1Douglas Gillison, an investigative reporter, has written for Time, the Village Voice, the New York Times and Foreign Policy. He was a staff writer at 100Reporters from 2013 to 2016. He served as Executive Editor of the Cambodia Daily from 2009 to 2011 and covered the ECCC from 2006 to 2011. 

Thank you, Doug, for your comment and questions!

My “express admiration for Judge Bohlander’s integrity,” as you put it, is no reflection, as you seem to suggest, that I find Judge You Bunleng to have less integrity or to be less deserving of appreciation.  By your own admission, you have not been following the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (“ECCC”) for years.  You are also not privy to much of what the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (“OCIJ”) has done, how it has been functioning, how it interacts with the parties, and, most of all, how the two Co-Investigating Judges work together.  Continue reading ““But Duch is a senior leader/most responsible while Chaem is not?””

Footnotes   [ + ]

International Observers to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: don’t count on ne bis in idem

What? The trial of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was unfair? Shocking!

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) urge Libya to turn over Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over Libya for 42 years, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a proper trial.1 United Nations, Support Mission in Libya and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the Trial of 37 Former Members of the Qadhafi Regime (Case 630/2012), 21 February 2017, p. 55, para. 9. Surprise, surprise. Or not! Continue reading “International Observers to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: don’t count on ne bis in idem”

Footnotes   [ + ]

When indiscretion leads to misinformation: irresponsible and impugning comments concerning Cases 003 and 004 at the ECCC

Judge You Bunleng (l) and
Judge Michael Bohlander (r)

On 22 February 2017, the Co-Investigating Judges at the ECCC decided to dismiss the case against Ms. Im Chaem finding that she did not meet the ECCC jurisdictional requirements of being a senior leader or one of those most responsible for alleged crimes during the Democratic Kampuchea regime during the ECCC’s temporal jurisdictional period of 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979.

Almost immediately after the decision was made public, critics began beating the drums.  Expected.  Decisions of this sort can be disappointing, especially to civil parties / victims.  Lost in the scrum of blame-fixing  are the facts.  Continue reading “When indiscretion leads to misinformation: irresponsible and impugning comments concerning Cases 003 and 004 at the ECCC”