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 (
Residing and practicing primarily in The Hague, he is recognized as an expert in international criminal defence,
including, pre-trial, trial, and appellate advocacy.
Michael G. Karnavas
Practice Areas

  • Litigation
  • Criminal Defence (USA)
  • International Criminal Defence
  • Public International Law
  • Trial and Appellant Consultant in Complex Litigation
  • Immigration and Extradition
  • International Development / Rule of Law
News and Events

Michael G. Karnavas wrote The Position of the Defence and Adequate Facilities in International Criminal Law Review based on his presentation at
the Colloquium on International Criminal Justice and the Enforcement Deficit: In Search of Sui Generis Theories and Procedures, organized by
Professor André Klip (Maastricht University) and Professor Steven Freeland (University of Western Sydney) on 25–27 October 2017. In his article,
Mr. Karnavas addresses whether it is time to consider designing criminal proceedings other than what exist at the various international(ized)
criminal tribunals and courts to maximize quicker, less cumbersome, less expensive adjudications.

Michael G. Karnavas wrote a chapter entitled The Serendipitous Nature of the ICC Trial Proceedings Risks the ICC’s Credibility (pp.: 202–247),
in Justice Without Borders a collection of essays on international criminal law, European criminal law and international cooperation, honoring Judge
Wolfgang Schomburg on the occasion of his 70th birthday on 9 April 2018.  This chapter considers whether the ad hoc nature of ICC trial
proceedings risks undermining the ICC's credibility. The Rome Statute and the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence have sufficient constructive
ambiguity as to how trials should be conducted such that, depending on the serendipitous composition of the Trial Chamber, trials can be shaped in
a more ‘adversarial’ or more 'inquisitorial' fashion. This malleability, which may have been the result of a diplomatic compromise, has resulted in ad
hoc trial proceedings at the ICC; no two trials are: conducted in the same manner. Since the hallmarks of any good court are uniformity,
predictability, and reliability in its proceedings, does this feature, which is unique to the ICC, risk undermining the legitimacy of the ICC's
judgments and, inexorably, the ICC itself?

On 8 February 2018, Michael G. Karnavas was quoted on the international criminal law aspects of the Rohingya situation in the Massacre in

On 14 December 2017, Hrvatski tjednik, a Croatian weekly newspaper, published an interview (Croatian, English) with Michael G. Karnavas on
the Prlić, et al case based on his post in memory of General Slobodan Prlajak.

On 9 December 2017, Michael G. Karnavas delivered a presentation via Skype at the annual conference of the Association of Defence Counsel
practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC-ICT). This year’s theme was International Crimes: Past, Present and Future
Perspectives. Participating on the panel focusing on the current developments relating to the core crimes at the international(ized) criminal courts
and tribunals, Michael G. Karnavas discussed the meaning of “civilian” for the purpose of Crimes Against Humanity at the Extraordinary Chambers
in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This issue emerged in light of the recent call for submissions and decision by International Co-Investigating
Judge Michael Bohlander, who is currently investigating Cases 003 and 004. The question posed by Judge Bohlander in his call for submissions, to
which eleven amici curiae along with the parties responded, was whether under customary international law between 1975 and 1979 (ECCC’s
temporal jurisdiction) an attack against a state’s own armed forces amounted to an attack against a civilian population for crimes against humanity.
To view the Summary of Michael G. Karnavas’s presentation click here. For an in-depth discussion of this issue, see Michael G. Karnavas’s three-
part blog post series here, here, and here.

On 25-27 October 2017, Michael G. Karnavas participated in the Academy Colloquium International Criminal Justice and the Enforcement Deficit:
In Search of Sui Generis Theories and Procedure at The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) organized by Professor André
Klip (Maastricht University) and Professor Steven Freeland (University of Western Sydney). The discussion was divided into four blocks
addressing: The Character of the (Hybrid) International Criminal Tribunal (Block 1); Substantive Criminal Law Issues (Block 2); Procedural
Challenges (Block 3); and Evading Pavlov, is international criminal justice the only way? (Block 4) Click here for the Colloquium Agenda and here
for a blog post on Michael G. Karnavas’s presentation on the Position of the Defence and Adequate Facilities.

On 24 October 2017, Michael G. Karnavas participated in Evidence Commentary Coordination and Authors’ Meeting at the premises of the
German Embassy in The Hague. The project’s aim is to publish a commentary on the law of evidence at the international criminal courts and
tribunals, which would serve as a comprehensive guide for practitioners and scholars alike on the growing jurisprudence on evidence. Michael G.
Karnavas will focus and analyze the relevant law on the topic of the testimony of the accused.

On 6 October 2017, Michael G. Karnavas participated in an international conference and the roundtable discussion titled “Doubt in favour of the
defendant, guilty beyond reasonable doubt” dedicated to the launch and promotion of a comparative study publication of the same name (available
in English here). Mr. Karnavas’s presentation provided a historical analysis of the reasonable doubt standard and the principle of in dubio pro reo,
the jurisprudence and jury instructions of various common law jurisdictions, the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, and some
aspects of the burden of proof in common law jurisdictions. The publication is part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) Mission in Skopje’s efforts to support and contextualize adversarial modalities introduced to the new Macedonian criminal procedure – a
hybrid system established as part of Macedonia’s transitional justice efforts in legal reform. The publication consists of contributions from seven
authors, including Mr. Karnavas, who submitted an 85-page research paper titled “Theoretical and Practical Aspects of the Standard of Proof
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt & The Principle of In Dubio Pro Reo in Common Law Jurisdictions.” Click here for the Agenda of the conference and
here for a Synopsis of Mr. Karnavas’s presentation.

On 23 August 2017, Michael G. Karnavas provided an intensive training session on direct examination for the Bosco Ntaganda Defence team at
the ICC. The training session focused on: preparation for direct examination; techniques and necessary skills; using documents; anticipating and
responding to objections; re-direct examination; best practice on examining witnesses; and practical advice on how to avoid or deal with trouble
situations during examination of witnesses.

On 5 July 2017, Michael G. Karnavas delivered a 1,5 hour presentation on the Rights of the Accused at the Summer School International Criminal
Law of the Leiden University. The summer school, organized annually, enables students and professionals from all over the world to engage in
discussions on the prospects and challenges of international criminal law. The program and the course information are available here and here.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Serbia published a report by Michael G. Karnavas titled “Proposals
for Building the Training Capacity of the Academy of the Bar Association of Serbia: A Strategic Plan for Continuous Legal Education for the
Coming 2-3 Years”. The Report analyzes and assesses the training needs of Serbian lawyers and the training capacities of the Attorney’s Academy
of the Bar Association of Serbia.  Based on the assessment, the Report provides specific proposals for reform and improvement of the institutional
and regulatory framework of the Academy, and recommends a detailed program for the organization of the training activities and a strategic
Continuous Legal Education plan for 2-3 years.

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 Tribunals” in 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.

On 26 November 2016, International Criminal Law Review published an article by Michael G. Karnavas, Defence Counsel Ethics, the ICC Code
of Conduct and Establishing a Bar Association for ICC List Counsel (International Criminal Law Review, Volume 16, Issue 6, pages 1048 - 1116
(2016).)   This article is based on Michael G. Karnavas’s presentation Lawyer Ethics and the work of the ICC Disciplinary Organs at Maastricht
Seminar for Members of the List of Counsel before the International Criminal Court on 16 & 17 July in Maastricht University, Maastricht, 17 July
2015.  The article analyzes the Defence Counsel’s duty to zealously represent their clients: What exactly does it mean to 'zealously represent' a
client before any of the international criminal courts or tribunals? How unproblematic is it for defence counsel to meet their ethical duties? Would
an International Criminal Court (ICC) Bar or professional association for ICC List Counsel and their assistants be of any significance to that end?

On 5 October 2016, Michael G. Karnavas participated in a seminar organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights – Cambodia (OHCHR) in cooperation with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC), titled Questioning Techniques from
the Defense’s Perspective and the Use of National and International Law in Legal Arguments. Held in Phnom Penh, this training was part of the
Legal Dialogue Series 2016: a series of trainings organized by the OHCHR as part of its ongoing efforts to support and strengthen the development
of Cambodian legal professionals, including by facilitating the dissemination of skills and knowledge from international and Cambodian lawyers at
the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to Cambodian lawyers practicing in local courts. For more on Michael G.
Karnavas’s presentation, click here.

On 6 July 2016, Michael G. Karnavas conducted a 1,5 hour lecture at the ICTY on the role of the defence before the international criminal
tribunals for a visiting group from the University of Salzburg, Austria.

On 6 July 2016, The Cambodia Daily published a commentary by Michael G. Karnavas on US Senate Appropriations Committee Bill S3117.  The
bill, as explained in the Committee’s Report, seeks to tie US funding of the ECCC to the indictment of Mr. Meas Muth in Case 003. Mr. Karnavas
calls out the bill’s drafters on their disregard for international standards of justice and respect for the rule of law, and for their lack of
understanding of the very procedural rules with which they seek to tamper.

On 20-21 June 2016, Michael G. Karnavas delivered a 16 hour training program on Plea Bargaining and the role of Kazakhstan Procedural
Prosecutors in Astana, Kazakhstan, organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Kazakhstan Prosecutor
General's Office (PGO).  This was part of an initiative by the OSCE, PGO, the Kazakhstan Supreme Court and other government agencies.

On 14 June 2016, Michael G. Karnavas conducted a 3 hour training on drafting submissions and motion practice, as part of the Mock Trial
training organized by the ADC-ICTY and ICLB (International Criminal Law Bureau).

On 10 June 2016, Michael G. Karnavas lectured at an international affairs class on atrocity crimes taught by Dr. Craig Etcheson, at Pannasastra
University, Phnom Penh Cambodia. The focus was on the rights of the accused and fair trial rights in the context of representing accused on
charges such as genocide and crimes against humanity, before international tribunals, and in particular the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of
Cambodia (ECCC).

From January to April 2016, Michael G. Karnavas provided a research and a comprehensive analysis on the principles of reasonable doubt and in
dubio pro reo to assist in their application to Macedonia’s new criminal procedure code, which is civil law based with adversarial modalities.

From March 2015 to April 2016, Michael G. Karnavas chairing the working group on drafting the constitution for and registering under the Dutch
law the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA) for Counsel and their staff appearing before the ICC.

On 2 and 9 March 2016, Michael G. Karnavas provided pro bono ethics training at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh,
Cambodia, consisting of two three-hour sessions on the general obligations and responsibilities of a lawyer, with a particular focus on conflicts of

From February to March 2016, Michael G. Karnavas provided intensive cross-examination training for the Bosco Ntaganda Defence team at the

From 8-12 February 2016, Michael G. Karnavas participated in the Sub-Regional Seminar of Counsel and the Legal Profession in Arusha,
Tanzania, hosted by the ICC Registrar. The first part of the Seminar (8 and 9 February) was aimed to provide a platform for dialogue and
cooperation of legal professionals in the region and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The second part of the seminar was devoted to training.
On 9 February 2016, Michael G. Karnavas participated in a panel discussion titled The Importance of Establishing an ICC Bar Association. He also
moderated a 2-hour closed-session discussion among the participants on the ongoing developments of drafting the constitution for the ICC Bar
Association (ICCBA). The ICC List Counsel among the participants expressed 100% support of the work of the Drafting Committee and the idea
of establishing the ICCBA. Click here for the agenda.

On 23 January 2016, Michael G. Karnavas made a presentation before the International Criminal Defence Lawyers (ICDL)-Germany 10th Annual
Meeting in Berlin, Germany, titled List Counsel of the ICC Unite: Vision or Illusion for a Bar Association of List Counsel and their Staff?  Click
here for the agenda.

On 18 January 2016, Michael G. Karnavas participated in a roundtable discussion The Amicus Curiae in International Criminal Justice, hosted
by Leiden University in cooperation with the Australian Human Rights Centre. The roundtable discussion was divided into three panel sessions
addressing: the strategy and impact of the amicus curiae briefs before the ICC (panel 1); the possibility of the amicus curiae affecting fair trial
rights and the possibility of “co-opting” amicus as defence, the amicus prosecutor and victims and states amicus (panel 2); procedural implications,
ethical challenges and future directions for managing the amicus curiae process (panel 3). For more on Michael Karnavas’s presentation, click here.
To view the agenda, click here.

Click here for Archive of earlier News and Events

[A]s a pro bono member within a Defence team at the International Criminal Court (ICC), I found the multiple day training course on
cross-examination techniques given by Michael Karnavas to be very useful. This training is highly recommended to any lawyer who plans
on examining witnesses in court. With his wealth of knowledge and experience and his no-nonsense approach, Michael Karnavas pushes
his trainees to constantly improve, think on their feet and most importantly, always be prepared ahead of time.

                    -- Erik Cookson-Montin, May 2016
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