Head of the International Practice Group
BACKGROUND AND EXPERTISE
Gillian is a senior international criminal lawyer and Head of the International Practice Group with extensive experience at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN international tribunals. She has been instructed in some of the leading cases in international criminal law including the first trial of a former Head of State (former President of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic) and the first case at the ICC of an incumbent Head of State (President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya). Before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, she represented Ivan Cermak in a case that has been described as the most important trial in the history of Croatia. Before the Rwanda Tribunal (ICTR), she acted for the defence in the trials of Alfred Musema (the first trial of a civilian alleging command responsibility for genocide) and Ferdinand Nahimana (a trial concerning the responsibility of the media for genocide in Rwanda in 1994). In 2019, she was appointed as an independent commissioner to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Gillian is currently advising the Government of South Sudan on international legal issues. She also provides interactive Witness Familiarisation sessions for both experts and witnesses of fact in any legal forum. These sessions include cross-examination experience and are intended to give individuals confidence in giving evidence in legal proceedings.
In 2023, Gillian launched the Cultural Heritage Desk which she leads at 9BR Chambers. She provides legal services and lends her mediation and negotiation skills to resolving issues arising in this field including cultural restitution. She also reviews publications in this field for Oxford University Press. See here.
Gillian’s advisory practice involves assisting states to investigate allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, capacity building, advising on transitional justice, sanctions, improving relations between governmental institutions and assisting states to fulfil their human rights obligations. Her recent work includes the following significant reports set out below:
South Sudan: An investigation and report on the causes of the 2013 and 2016 conflicts in South Sudan. Read report here.
Sudan: Preparation of a report on the Lundin case concerning universal jurisdiction proceedings in Sweden alleging war crimes committed in Sudan from 1997-2003 against Lundin Oil company, its chairman and its CEO. This report was commissioned by the Board of Directors for Lundin Energy. Read report here.
Algeria: A Human Rights Abuse Alert report on Algeria, July 2019. This alert was submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Read report here.
Egypt: Reports on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt commissioned by the State Lawsuit (Litigation) Authority of Egypt, 2015. Read all four reports here.
Sri Lanka: Submissions to the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) relating to the 30-year conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). Read one of the reports here.
In 2019, Gillian and Steven Kay KC established the Interpol Red Notice Desk at 9BR Chambers. She has also served as a member of the steering committee for Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty programme and provided advice and legal services to a range of organisations including the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Kurdish Human Rights Project.
Gillian is registered to accept instructions under Direct Public Access.
As an accredited civil and commercial mediator, Gillian employs this skillset throughout her legal practice, assisting clients with ‘difficult conversations’, brokering agreements and empowering institutions and government agencies to facilitate better communication. She is also a faculty member of the London School of Mediation.
In addition to her legal practice, Gillian is a recognised pioneer of wellbeing at the Bar as an accredited mindfulness teacher. For the past 6 years, she has designed and developed presentations, workshops, and courses for a broad range of legal institutions and bodies including The International Criminal Court, Gray’s Inn, Women in Criminal Law, The Criminal Bar Association, The South-Eastern Circuit, civil and commercial chambers, Barclays Bank and JPM Chase. Gillian is the author of Mindfulness at Work and Home and a Champion of LawCare.
International Criminal Cases and Situations
Provision of international legal services to the Government of South Sudan covering advice on international legal issues. Read “Pushing the Reset Button for South Sudan” in respect of the conflicts of 2013 and 2016.
Universal jurisdiction proceedings in Sweden alleging war crimes committed in Sudan 1997-2003 against Lundin Oil Company, its Chairman and CEO. Preparation of a report on the Lundin case. Read here.
International Criminal Court proceedings commenced in December 2010 against President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya, and son of the first President of the nation, Jomo Kenyatta. The case alleged that President Kenyatta had a leading role in the post-election violence of 2007-2008 for which he was charged with crimes against humanity. At the confirmation of charges hearing the Defence challenged the prosecution's case theory comprehensively and called Uhuru Kenyatta to give evidence in his own defence. Although the Pre-Trial Judges confirmed the charges, it was subsequently established that the defence contentions at the confirmation hearing had been correct. In January 2015 the charges were finally withdrawn by the Prosecution, having admitted there was an insufficiency of evidence upon which to proceed to trial. Read the Defence report here.
To view extracts of Gillian’s presentation of submissions from the Confirmation Hearing, see below:
Submissions to the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), on behalf of three Sri Lankan NGOs, relating to the 30-year conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers). 9BR Chambers submitted detailed reports on aspects of the conflict, supported by evidence from open sources. Read one of the reports here.
Member of the 9BR Chambers team commissioned by the State Lawsuit (Litigation) Authority of Egypt to provide a series of reports upon the Muslim Brotherhood: The History of the Muslim Brotherhood, The Egyptian Experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Power 2012-2013; The Egyptian Revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood 2013; and The Current Situation in Egypt. Read reports here.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Instructed to represent Ivan Cermak, who was acquitted of all charges in 2011. This case has been described as the most important trial in the history of Croatia and concerned the prosecution of Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac in respect of the military action that resulted in the liberation of the Croatian territories from the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK).
To view extracts of Gillian’s submissions from the trial, see below.
Trial of Slobodan Milosevic on 66 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide at the ICTY. Appointed as Court-Assigned Defence Counsel with Steven Kay KC from 2004, having previously been appointed Amica Curiae (in 2003) and instructed as a Legal Consultant to the Amici Curiae (2001).
Member of the defence team before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) representing Ferdinand Nahimana in a trial concerning the responsibility of the media for genocide in Rwanda in 1994 – which came to be known as the “media trial”. Nahimana, who had acted as Director of the Rwandan Office of Information in 1990–92, was one of three people charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.
The first trial of a civilian alleging command responsibility for genocide. Gillian was engaged as a member of the defence team, the first to enter Rwanda to conduct investigations. At present, Gillian is instructed with Steven Kay KC as Review Counsel before the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
International Fraud and Corruption
Litigation in the Commercial Court concerning two ex-Metropolitan police officers, sued by the owners of FBME bank. The litigation concerns an alleged breach of a confidentiality agreement in relation to the provision of information to Central Bank of Cyprus and US FINCEN of serious criminal conduct and regulatory breaches revealed within the accounts held by the Cyprus branch of the bank referencing: money laundering, Magnitsky money, terrorist accounts, fraud, sarin gas and extreme pornography. News story here.
Instruction concerning legal action by Vincent Tchenguiz in relation to a portfolio of Hilton hotels bought by Mr Tchenguiz, leased back to Hilton and eventually put into administration upon default of a loan scheme hedged by Bayerische Landesbank, in circumstances where the value of assets was believed to be undersold. News story here.
Legal consultant for the Defence Support Section advising on strategy and international criminal law.
Legal consultant for the Office of Defence Counsel providing advice on strategy and international criminal law.
Legal advisor and trial observer for KHRP of the HADEP trial in Ankara, Turkey.
Oxford University Press Book Review: International Cultural Heritage Law by Janet Blake, 2023. Read review here
Counsel Magazine, “How to Tame Your Inner Critic”, September 2019. Read review here.
Mindfulness at Work and Home, Reddoor Press, 2019.
Blog editor and publisher for the International Criminal Law Bureau.
Book review of Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by Daniel H Joyner, 2012. Read review here.
Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination, chapter in Transferring War Crimes Cases From the ICTY, UNICRI 2011. Read here.
The Development of the Right to Self-Representation before the International Criminal Tribunals, chapter in Judicial Creativity at the International Criminal Tribunals, OUP, 2011. Read chapter here.
The Impact of the Size, Scope and Scale of the Milosevic Trial and the development of Rule 73bis before the ICTY, Northwestern University Law Review, 2009. Read here.
Entries on The Prosecutor v Slobodan Milosevic and The Prosecutor v Ferdinand Nahimana in the Oxford Companion to International Criminal Law, Oxford University Press (OUP) 2009. Read here.
Fair and Expeditious Pre-Trial Proceedings: The Future of International Criminal Trials, Journal of International Criminal Justice 2007. Read here.
The Impact of the Size, Scope and Scale of the Milosevic Trial, special edition, Criminal Law Forum 2006. Read here.
Life Beyond the Crown Court Grind, The Times 11 October 2005. Read here.
The Intoxication Defence and Theories of Criminal Liability: A Praxeological Approach by Martin Shain and Gillian Higgins, Contemporary Drug Problems, Volume 24, Issue 4, pages 731-736, 1999.
Professional commentary and attribution
"She is an incredible advocate." (Chambers and Partners, 2024)
"An incisive cross-examiner who takes no prisoners and is a fantastic all-rounder." (Chambers and Partners, 2023)
"She combines her excellent judgement, tenacity and creativity to present persuasive legal arguments." (Legal 500, 2023)
“The most experienced junior doing this type of work, who is utterly methodical and has the full respect of her peers both for the international criminal law work she does and her efforts in highlighting the issue of mental health at the Bar.” (Chambers and Partners, 2022)
“Leading junior of unparalleled experience in international criminal law, who has been in all the leading cases that have shaped this area of international law.” (Legal 500, 2022)
‘Highly experienced junior who has been in all the major international criminal law cases. Able to handle complex litigation and lead a team. Good legal drafting and research skills. In court her advocacy is delivered with great poise and total command of the facts.’ (Legal 500, 2021)
“Well known for her expertise in complex international criminal cases” Legal 500, 2020
“She is hard-working, collegiate and very effective” Chambers UK, 2020
"A well-respected, seasoned lawyer in this field" who is "a very shrewd and effective advocate." Chambers UK, 2019
'She has a track record in heavyweight cases before international tribunals' Legal 500, 2018
"An experienced junior who is held to be a "very committed advocate," she is particularly adept at defending those charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. She maintains a particularly strong affiliation with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights."
"She has a reputation as a very canny operator. Strategically, she is second to none in terms of her approach to cases."
"Acting as Counsel for Alfred Musema in review proceedings at the United Nations Mechanism For International Criminal Tribunals." Chambers UK, 2018
"Noted by sources for her strong work ethic and knowledge of international criminal law ... she maintains a particularly strong affiliation with the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights ...utterly fantastic." (Chambers UK, 2017)
"A veteran of International Criminal Court prosecutions." (Legal 500, 2017)
PROFILE: Gillian Higgins
Fraud, Bribery & Corruption
020 7489 2727
LLB, Exeter University, 2001–04
LLM, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, 2004–05
Inns of Court School of Law, 2006–07
Accredited Mediator – 2016
List Counsel at the International Criminal Court
Criminal Bar Association
Founding member of the International Criminal Law Bureau
Independent Commissioner to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
Accredited civil and commercial mediator
Member of the steering committee for Oxfam’s Lawyers Against Poverty programme, 2015–16
Member of the Faculty of the London School of Mediation, 2016–date
Investigative Interviewer – Accredited Course Part 1, Intersol Global, 2016