Michael 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.
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?
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 “
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)
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.
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 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.
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.
[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.
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”
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.
By 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”
Linking: Connecting or joining something to something else.
Linkage: The action of linking or the state of being linked.
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.
“[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”
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.
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.