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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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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”

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Footnotes   [ + ]

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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Invoking the Interests of Justice: self-preservation or self-destruction

In summary, the Chamber believes that, notwithstanding the fact all the relevant requirements are met as regards both jurisdiction and admissibility, the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited. Accordingly, it is unlikely that pursuing an investigation would result in meeting the objectives listed by the victims favouring the investigation, or otherwise positively contributing to it. It is worth recalling that only victims of specific cases brought before the Court could ever have the opportunity of playing a meaningful role in as participants in the relevant proceedings; in the absence of any such cases, this meaningful role will never materialise in spite of the investigation having been authorised; victims’ expectations will not go beyond little more than aspirations. This, far from honouring the victims’ wishes and aspiration that justice be done, would result in creating frustration and possibly hostility vis-a-vis the Court and therefore negatively impact its very ability to pursue credibly the objectives it was created to serve.

Decision Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute on the Authorisation of an Investigation into the Situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, 12 April 2019, para 96

Related imageBy now much has been written about the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre-Trial Chamber’s (PTC) Decision on the Situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in which it put the kibosh on the Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) efforts to investigate, among other things, crimes allegedly committed by US armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency, including contractors and other persons under their effective control (see here and here for my earlier posts on the OTP’s efforts to pursue this situation). Invoking Article 53(1)(c) of the ICC Statute the PTC found:

Having determined that both the jurisdiction and the admissibility requirements are satisfied, it remains for the Chamber to determine, in accordance with article 53(1)(c) of the Statute, whether, taking into account the gravity of the crime and the interests of victims, there are nonetheless substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice. (para 87) Continue reading “Invoking the Interests of Justice: self-preservation or self-destruction”

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The kitchen sink, needles in the haystack, spaghetti on the wall: how not to charge & why proofing charts work

Linking: Connecting or joining something to something else.

Linkage: The action of linking or the state of being linked.

Oxford Dictionary

In my previous post I drew a comparison between what little we know about the US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report and what might be a useful lesson for ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, namely, that it is best not to charge unless there is reliable and relevant evidence for a conviction — not just when there is sufficient evidence to charge.

My advice may appear cheeky and self-serving as it is coming from a criminal defense lawyer – why trust someone with an obvious stake in the game? And if overreaching, overcharging, and overtrying a case leads to an acquittal, why would a defense lawyer get in the way by offering any advice that might yield more positive results for the prosecution? Continue reading “The kitchen sink, needles in the haystack, spaghetti on the wall: how not to charge & why proofing charts work”

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What can ICC Prosecutor Bensouda learn from Special Counsel Mueller: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

“[W]hile this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

From US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report, as quoted by US Attorney General William Barr in a letter to the US Congress, 24 March 2019

After two years of hearing on the news and social media about the Russia probe, election interference, counterintelligence investigations, hacking of emails, WikiLeaks, potential obstruction of justice and so much more, the investigation led by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller came to an end. Some were elated, some were disappointed, and some were left wanting — not knowing what to make of the four page summary provided by US Attorney General William Barr, who in less than two days read, digested, and summarized Mueller’s nearly 400-page report (while also having time to look at the alleged million plus pages of evidence). Frankly, until the report is released — if and to the extent it is released — it is pure speculation to draw any reasonable and rational conclusions other than from the quoted text which, undeniably, establishes that President Donald Trump, the prime target of the investigation, will not be charged with any crimes. Nor will his son, son-in-law, and other associates — at least not by Mueller. Whether a sitting president can be charged is, in my mind, not even a close call: there is nothing unconstitutional about charging and prosecuting a sitting president — even if there is a Justice Department policy paper that says that it would not be cool to do so. Continue reading “What can ICC Prosecutor Bensouda learn from Special Counsel Mueller: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should”

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Philippinexit: Inevitable but inconsequential 

We have moved from the heady cosmopolitanism of the 1990s and its post-Cold War institution-building to a period of tribunal and law-making fatigue, along with resurgent nationalism and its emphasis on impermeable sovereignty. We should be slow to ask for the Court to be reshaped to reflect present realities, as such as a Court would likely be a hollowed-out, pointless shell. At the same time, it is dangerous for a legal institution to get too far ahead of the surrounding political environment. The ICC perhaps reflected the zeitgeist of its time – the idea that the promise of law is that power should always be accountable; nonetheless, that may make it the wrong court for these times.

Douglas Guilfoyle, This is Not Fine: The International Criminal Court in Trouble, Part I EJIL:Talk! 21 March 2019

It is hardly a revelation that political and accountability pressures are seducing heads of once enthusiastic ICC club-joining States (such as the Philippines) to reassess, reprove, and retreat — taking their toys and going home, or, as it were, putting their head in the sand and indulging in self-delusion: by withdrawing from the ICC so as to disappear allegations of crimes falling under the ICC’s jurisdiction. Hardly sound thinking. Crimes once committed no more disappear than does the need for accountability. Walking away from the ICC does not end the story. It may hamper the ICC in completing its investigation, it may frustrate it from making arrests and prosecuting those charged with crimes, and it might add more chinks in the ICC’s already battered armor, but un-signing the Rome Statute and exiting from the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties is not going to sound the ICC’s death knell. The way the ICC is carrying on, unless it mends its ways, that is a job it will do for itself.

Continue reading “Philippinexit: Inevitable but inconsequential “

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Comment and Reply to Comment on Pompeo Post

Attorney Bryan Miller recently commented on my post Pompeo’s thuggish threats against the ICC: a Trumpian call or electioneering hyperbolic fodder?   Occasionally, a comment comes along that demands more than just a brief response. This is one of them. For convenience, Bryan’s comment and my response appear back to back.

Continue reading “Comment and Reply to Comment on Pompeo Post”

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Pompeo’s thuggish threats against the ICC: a Trumpian call or electioneering hyperbolic fodder?

I’m announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel. … These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent. … We’re prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 15 March 2019

It’s like déjà vu, all over again — to quote legendary US baseball manager and pulp philosopher Yogi Berra. Many chuckle at this quaint paradoxical observation, but on occasion it is fitting. While something may not quite be déjà vu, seemingly or virtually, it just may be. And that is what we can say of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech on 15 March 2019: same same as what we heard from US National Security Adviser John Bolton, but different. Déjà vu, all over again. Continue reading “Pompeo’s thuggish threats against the ICC: a Trumpian call or electioneering hyperbolic fodder?”

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Book Review – The Elgar Companion to THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS IN THE COURTS OF CAMBODIA

The Elgar Companion to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, by Nina H.B. Jørgensen, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018, 404 pages, £ 144.00

With the benefit of hindsight, would the Cambodian government and the international community have joined hands and built the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)? Possibly not. The Court has received more criticism than acclaim and is generally touted as a model not to be followed.

Nina H.B. Jørgensen, p. 359  

The Elgar Companion to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of CambodiaAnyone interested in the trials, tribulations, and contributions of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to the development of international criminal law and justice, look no further than Professor Nina H.B. Jørgensen’s outstanding primer, The Elgar Companion TO THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS IN THE COURTS OF CAMBODIA (The Companion to the ECCC)If there are any doubts about the ECCC’s legacy, particularly its positive contribution to international criminal jurisprudence, Professor Jørgensen has put them to rest. Thanks to her critical analysis of the ECCC’s procedures, of the cases tried and currently under investigation, and of the jurisprudence the ECCC has produced over the past decade – especially considering the general environment and context in which the ECCC operates – it is hard not to be impressed with the accomplishments of the ECCC, despite its numerous shortcomings and disappointing failures. Continue reading “Book Review – The Elgar Companion to THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS IN THE COURTS OF CAMBODIA”

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