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 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 and Sierra Leone, along with the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), arguing long and complex cases at trial and appellate levels.
On behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office part of a team instructed to deliver the justice component of the Somaliland Security and Justice Reform Programme. Lead consultant on Legal Defence and Registry strands.
Instructed by the African Centre for Rights and Governance 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’.
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.
Successful appeal against sentence.
From 2007-2013, legal assistant and then pro bono counsel for the former commander of the Para-Commando Battalion of the Rwandan Government Forces. Advised on trial and appeal wherein convictions were overturned for murder and other inhumane acts, both crimes against humanity, and genocide in part. The Appeals Chamber also quashed and substituted his life sentence.
Represented the former CEO of Kenya Power and Lighting Company, whose extradition was sought from Kenya, in proceedings before the Royal Court of Jersey. The index offences are financial offences in an amount of approximately 10m USD.
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, before Gage LJ, concerned the handling of civilian detainees during Operation Telic II in Basra in 2003.
Read more International Cases
training and speaking
- International Bar Association, War Crimes Committee, Annual Conference, Peace Palace, The Hague (forthcoming)
- Association of Defence Counsel before the ICTY Training, The Hague
- 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
- Weighing up the Evidence, with Fulford LJ., (then President of the Trial Division of the International Criminal Court), Counsel, (May 2010).
Professional Commentary and Attribution
"Joe is composed on his feet and conducts his examinations in chief in an assured manner. His written advocacy is compelling and incisive, and his knowledge of the case law concerning the principal international tribunals is as good as that of any of the best practitioners."
"He demonstrates flawless judgement on a daily basis but is appealingly modest with it." (Chambers UK, 2023)
"A smart, focused and thorough junior. He cuts through legal problems like a knife through butter." (Legal 500, 2023)
"An impressive advocate, who is very calm and collected. It is difficult to ruffle him and he is second to none when it comes to black-letter law." "An excellent young lawyer, who is hard-working, dedicated and ambitious." "He focuses on the detail and is determined to get to the right legal answer." (Chambers UK, 2021)
"Absolutely wonderful. He has a fantastic legal mind and an encyclopaedic knowledge of international criminal law and procedure. His written advocacy is second to none." (Chambers UK, 2020)
"He cuts to the heart of complex cases" (Legal 500, 2020)
'His ability to spot legal problems and work around or through them is second to none' (Legal 500, 2018)
"He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of international criminal law and his advocacy is very persuasive." (Legal 500, 2017)
PROFILE: Joe Holmes
Inquests / public inquiries
Human rights law
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
New York State Bar Association
Association des Avocats de la Defense (association of defence attorneys before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda)
State of New York, Attorney. Passed the Bar exams in 2007. Licensed to practise in the New York State and Federal jurisdictions in the USA.
Axiom International Ltd, Senior Justice Reform Advisor. Axiom International provides expert services in the defence, policing, criminal justice and forensic sciences sectors. Joe is regularly deployed as a subject-matter expert in criminal justice to consult on and implement institution and capacity-building projects in developing jurisdictions.
Global Rights Compliance LLP, Legal Consultant. GRC provides advice to Governments, corporations and NGOs on matters of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, transitional justice and business and human rights.