Joe Holmes


Joe is an international lawyer who operates in diverse national and international jurisdictions, including fragile and conflict-affected regions.

He is dual-qualified before the Bars of England and Wales and New York. He speaks Spanish and some French.

Background and expertise

Joe offers expertise in international criminal law, public international law, international humanitarian law, strategic litigation, counter-terrorism and human rights law. He is a recognised subject matter expert in rule of law capacity-building, deployable to conflict-affected countries.

His clients have included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Egyptian government, the African Centre for Rights and Governance, the former chief of Serbian state security, the former commanding officer of the Bosnian Serb Army and the former préfet of Butare, Rwanda.

Joe has represented high-profile individuals in international criminal law for more than 10 years – appearing before courts and tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and  Sierra Leone, along with the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), arguing long and complex cases at trial and appellate levels.

He recently prepared the appeal in Nyiramasuhuku et al, believed to be the longest criminal case in history. He is also engaged by teams defending the interests of General Ratko Mladic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Jovica Stanisic at the MICT.

Joe is currently advising the FCO on reform to the Somaliland criminal justice system. In that role he is responsible for cabinet-level engagement and designing new court management systems, engaging with local stakeholders at cabinet level.

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International Cases

Prosecutor v Jovica Stanisic

MICT-15-96 Advising the former head of Serbian state security, alleged to be President Milosevic’s right-hand man, in his retrial before the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.

Prosecutor v Ratko Mladic

ICTY; IT-09-92-T Acting for the former colonel general and commanding officer of the Army of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia–Herzegovina.

Justice reform programme in Somaliland

Part of a team instructed to deliver the justice component of the Somaliland Security and Justice Reform Programme, on behalf of the FCO. Leads the justice strand of this three-part programme.

See article in

Counsel for a state party

Counsel for state party in a complaint before the UN Human Rights Council, concerning violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Advice and response: African Centre for Rights and Governance

Instructed to advise on, and prepare a response to, the Report of the Committee of the Judicial Services Commission on the establishment of an International Crimes Division in the High Court of Kenya.

P v Alphonse Nteziryayo

UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR-98-42-A; ‘Butare’) Advised the former préfet of Butare on appeal against a single count of direct and public incitement to genocide and a sentence. The Appeals Chamber quashed and substituted sentence of 30 years.

R v Ward, 2012

EWCA Crim 2534 Successful appeal against sentence.

P v Aloys Ntabakuze, 2007–13
ICTR-98-41-T and A; 'Military I' Trial and appeal of battalion commander in which convictions were overturned for murder and other inhumane acts, both crimes against humanity, and genocide in part. The Appeals Chamber quashed and substituted his life sentence.
Her Majesty’s Attorney General v Samuel Gichuru

Royal Court of Jersey Represented the former CEO of Kenya Power and Lighting Company, whose extradition was sought from Kenya. The index offences are financial offences in an amount of approximately US$10m.

The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry

Led by Michael Topolski QC (now HHJ Topolski QC). Represented Donald Payne, the first British soldier to be convicted of a war crime (inflicting inhumane treatment). The inquiry concerned the handling of civilian detainees during Operation Telic II in Basra in 2003.

P v Kallon

Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL-04-15-T; 'RUF') Legal consultant to defence team of the former second in command of the Revolutionary United Front during the Sierra Leonean civil war. Defended, amongst others, charges of the conscription of child soldiers, slavery, and forced marriages.

P v Ngeze

ICTR-99-52-A; ‘Media’ Legal assistant to the editor of Kangura magazine, on appeal, in case which sought to delineate between mere hate speech, protected by freedom of speech, and incitement to genocide. Convictions reversed for genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement to genocide and extermination. Life sentence quashed and substituted.

P v Nzuwomemeye

ICTR-00-56-T; 'Military II') Legal intern on the defence team of a former battalion commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion of the Forces Armées Rwandaises.

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Other Activities and Interests

  • Panellist on ‘Peace v Justice, the Jus Post Bellum Dilemma’ at the International Bar Association War Crimes Committee Annual Conference, 2017
  • Trainer for the Association of Defence Counsel practising before the International Courts and Tribunals (ADC-ICT)
  • Designs and delivers bespoke training programmes for judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers in Hargeisa, Somaliland


  • Co-author of Call to Arms, International Bar Association North American Forum Regional Newsletter, 2013
  • International Criminal Justice?, Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 2012
  • The Third International Defense Conference - International Criminal Justice: Justice for Whom?, Criminal Bar Quarterly, 2012
  • Assisted Suicide – the Case for Reform, Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 2012
  • Co-author of Weighing up the Evidence, Counsel, 2010

Professional Commentary and Attribution

"He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of international criminal law and his advocacy is very persuasive." (Legal 500, 2017)
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PROFILE: Joe Holmes

'His ability to spot legal problems and work around or through them is second to none'

Legal 500, 2018

Year called




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Inquests / public inquiries


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Human rights law

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International Terrorism


020 7489 2727


BVC, College of Law

LPC, Nottingham Law School

BA Law with European Law, University of Nottingham

Diploma en Derecho Espanol, Universitat de Valencia


IBA, CBA, New York State Bar Association, JUSTICE


State of New York, Attorney – passed bar exams in 2007. Licensed to practise in New York State and federal jurisdictions in the US.

Senior Justice Reform Advisor, Axiom International

Legal Consultant, Global Rights Compliance (GRC)


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