Michael G. Karnavas


  • 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.
  • Practicing law for 40 years, Michael G. Karnavas has appeared before State and Federal Courts in the USA, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and the ICC.
  • For over 30 years, Michael G. Karnavas has taught trial advocacy skills to lawyers and law students, has lectured extensively on international criminal law and procedure, has authored trial advocacy practice manuals, articles and book chapters on international criminal law and procedure, and has been engaged in a variety of development projects in Europe and Asia dealing with issues related to the Rule of Law.
  • From October 2006 to March 2009, Michael G. Karnavas served as the President of the Association of Defence Counsel Practicing Before the ICTY (ADC-ICTY) and served as the Chair of the Training Committee and as a member of the Rules Committee of the ADC-ICTY. He also served as one of the two permanent members of the ICC Disciplinary Appeals Board (2014-2019).

                                                                                                                   INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW


  • Lead Counsel for Dr. Jadranko Prlić in Prosecutor v. Prlić et al., from April 2005 to present. Dr. Jadranko Prlić was charged and tried on the basis of individual and superior criminal responsibility for: Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions (willful killing; inhuman treatment (sexual assault); unlawful deportation, transfer and confinement of a civilian; inhuman treatment; extensive destruction of property and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly); Violations of the Laws or Customs of War (cruel treatment; unlawful labour; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity; destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education; plunder of public or private property; unlawful attack on civilians; unlawful infliction of terror on civilians); and Crimes Against Humanity(persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; murder; rape; deportation; imprisonment; inhumane acts). The trial lasted 5 years, with the appeal lasting until 2017.
  • Lead Counsel for Shefqet Kabashi in Prosecutor v. Kabashi, November 2010 to November 2011. Mr. Kabashi was charged with two counts of contempt of court knowingly and willfully interfered with the administration of justice by contumaciously refusing or failing to answer a question as a witness before a Chamber on two occasions in the case of Haradinaj et al.
  • Lead Counsel for Colonel Vidoje Blagojević in Prosecutor v. Blagojević and Jokić, from January 2001 to March 2005. Colonel Blagojević was charged and tried on the basis of individual and superior criminal responsibility for: Complicity to Commit Genocide; Crimes Against Humanity(extermination; murder; persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds; inhumane acts (forcible transfer)); and Violations of the Laws and Customs of War (murder). The trial lasted nearly two years.
  • Duty Counsel for various accused individuals and witnesses before the ICTY.


  • International Co-Lawyer for Meas Muth in Case 003 from 13 June 2012 to December 2021. Meas Muth, alleged to have been Commander of the Democratic Kampuchea Navy, has been charged with: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity (murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment; torture, persecution, and other inhumane acts), Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions (willful killing, willfully causing great suffering or serous injury to body or health, torture and unlawful confinement of civilians), and premeditated homicide under the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code.
  • International Co-Lawyer for Ieng Sary ECCC in Case of NUON Chea et al. (Case 002) from 17 December 2007 to 14 March 2013. Ieng Sary, Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs for Democratic Kampuchea (17 April 1975 – 6 January 1979), was charged and tried on the basis of individual and superior criminal responsibility for: Crimes Against Humanity (murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation; imprisonment; torture; persecution on political, racial, and religious grounds and other inhumane acts); Genocide, by killing members of the groups of Vietnamese and Cham; Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (willful killing; torture or inhumane treatment; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; willfully depriving a prisoner of war or civilian the rights of fair and regular trial; and unlawful deportation or unlawful confinement of a civilian). The proceedings against Mr. Ieng Sary were terminated on 14 March 2013 following his death.


  • Lead Defence Counsel in Prosecutor v. Gicheru since November 2020 to present. Mr. Gicheru is accused of offences against the administration of justice in connection with the case of the Prosecutor v. Ruto & Sang. He is accused of corruptly influencing Prosecution witnesses.  Closing arguments were completed in July and the case is recess pending judgment.
  • Lead Defence Counsel for Mr. Aime Kilolo Musamba on sentencing, appeal, and resentencing, in Prosecutor v. Bemba et al., since November 2016 to November 2018. Mr. Kilolo was charged with offences against the administration of justice in connection with the case of the Prosecutor v. Bemba. He was found guilty of having corruptly influenced witnesses, having presented their false evidence, and having induced the giving of false testimony by witnesses.
  • Duty Counsel for a protected witness testifying in Prosecutor v. Ruto & Sang, 12-29 January 2015.

                                                                                    INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT / RULE OF LAW EXPERIENCE

  • Participated in judicial reform projects in Asia and Europe, training judges, prosecutors and lawyers, training trainers on how to teach trial skills, drafting legislation, and establishing legal aid agencies. Some of the projects include:
  • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); OSCE Mission in Serbia; OSCE Programme Office in Astana, Kazakhstan; and OSCE Mission to Skopje, Macedonia.
  • International Legal Consultant for developing a CLE system for the Macedonian Bar Association; October to December 2014. The proposed strategy provided organizational logistics and a detailed curriculum development process for establishing a sustainable and effective CLE.
  • ABA-UNDP International Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
  • Legal Expert for providing an external review of Sierra Leone’s Criminal Bill; March to April 2014.
  • Co-Leader of Legal Experts for designing an implementation plan for a new Penal Code for one of UNDP’s program countries. The project included recommending good practices to assist the national authorities in creating the necessary legal/institutional conditions for effective implementation of the Penal Code, and suggesting relevant supporting activities such as: legislative reform (consequential amendment and repeal of other laws, new legislation for criminal procedure and evidence, transitional provisions), public awareness raising, institutional training, etc.; May to June 2014.
  • Brčko Law Revision Commission (BLRC) of the Office of the High Representative–North Brčko District
  • Executive Director and Chairman, from 1999-2001. Tasked with the authority pursuant to the Final Award of the Arbitral Tribunal for the Dispute Over Inter-Entity Boundary in Brčko Area of Bosnia and Herzegovina to draft and modify existing laws to produce a uniform system of laws throughout the Brčko District.The BLRC was created as mandated by the Dayton Agreement Arbitral Tribunal. This project entailed drafting the legal and regulatory framework of the newly created Brčko District. For more on the BLRC, see Michael G. Karnavas, Creating the Legal Framework of the Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Model for the Region and Other Post conflict Countries, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 97, No. 1 (Jan. 2003), pp. 111-131.
  • Cambodian Court Training Project, International Human Rights Group
  • Senior Trainer, from April 1995 to June 1996. Provided training to judges and prosecutors throughout Cambodia on substantive and procedural law, including ethics, conducting investigations, assessing evidence in making findings of facts and conclusions of law, the role of the defence, international
    principles and standards of fair trial rights, and general principles on the Rule of Law.
  • Cambodian Defender Project, International Human Rights Group
  • Trial Advocacy Trainer, from July to August 1994. Conducted a 30 day intense trial advocacy training for 25 human rights advocates undergoing a one year training program to become advocates for indigent suspects and accused. Also drafted a practical trial advocacy manual specifically tailored to the then-applicable procedures in Cambodia.


  • Private practice, appearing both in State and Federal Courts at the trial and appellate level, 1983-1986; 1997-1999.
  • Trial Consultant, specializing in complex matters, including death penalty cases, 1995 to 1999.
  • Senior Trial Attorney, Alaska Public Defender Agency, January 1989 to April 1995.
  • Assistant Federal Defender, Alaska Federal Public Defenders, April 1986 to June 1988.


Cleveland Marshall College of Law
Cleveland State University
Cleveland Ohio, USA
Juris Doctor, 1982

George Washington University
Washington D.C., USA
Bachelor of Arts, International
Affairs, 1979

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