Personal Profile

Karel is a partner and head of the International Arbitration practice. He is a recognised leader in investor-state arbitrations and Africa disputes. 

Karel has acted as counsel in over 15 investor-state arbitrations, the majority of which were conducted under the ICSID Convention. He has acted equally on the claimant/investor side and the respondent/state side. Most of these disputes related to oil and gas concessions, mining, energy and public infrastructure contracts (water distribution; ports; border post operations).  

He has particular expertise in Africa related disputes, involving countries such as Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon,Central African Republic, DRC, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. Being dual qualified (common and civil law) and trilingual, he covers most of Sub-Sahara Africa.  

Karel also has a substantive commercial arbitration practice, having conducted arbitrations under the Rules of the LCIA, ICC, CEPINA, UNCITRAL and in ad hoc arbitrations. These disputes arise under a variety of commercial contracts (joint venture agreements, share purchase agreements, sales agreements, service agreements and lease agreements) in a variety of sectors, including retail, financial services, construction and real estate.

Since 2012, Karel has been consistently ranked in all the major legal directories including Chambers and Partners Global, Legal 500, Who's Who Commercial Arbitration and Expert Guides Commercial Arbitration, describing him as "superb", "fantastic to work with", "impressive for his willingness to take on novel cases", "a real 'talent", "extremely knowledgeable", "a leading investor-state arbitration practitioner", "great in Africa" and "highly rated thanks to the breadth of his expertise". He accepts appointments as arbitrator and adjudicator.

Key Experience

  • Acting for the Kingdom of Belgium in ICSID arbitration against DP World in relation to the alleged expropriation of a port concession (ICSID Case No. ARB/17/21; BIT Belgium-UAE);
  • Acting for an Italian investor in ICSID arbitration against the Republic of Albania in relation to the expropriation of a power plant and TV production companies (ICSID Case No. ARB/15/28; seat London; BIT Italy-Albania);
  • Acting for BSGR in ICSID arbitration against the Republic of Guinea, a multi-billion mining dispute involving allegations of corruption (ICSID Case No. ARB/14/22; seat Paris; Guinean applicable law);
  • Acted for the investor in ICSID arbitration against the Republic of Cameroon in relation to a gas exploration and exploitation contract (ICSID Case No. ARB/13/14; seat Paris; Cameroon applicable law);
  • Acting for an US oil company in ICSID annulment proceedings against the Republic of Saint Lucia in relation to the termination of an oil concession (ICSID Case No. ARB/12/10; seat New York; Saint Lucia applicable law);
  • Acting for a Singaporean investor in an ad hoc arbitration against the Peoples' Republic of China in relation to the expropriation of land (seat to be determined; BIT Singapore-China);
  • Acting for a Tunisian investor in ad hoc arbitration against the Republic of Algeria in relation to the construction and financing of two universities (seat to be determined; BIT Tunisia-Algeria);
  • Acting for an investor in ad hoc arbitration against the Democratic Republic of Congo in relation to a concession to build and operate border control posts (seat Johannesburg; DRC Foreign Investment Act);
  • Acted for the investor in ICSID conciliation proceedings against the Republic of Cameroon in relation to a gas exploration and exploitation contract (ICSID Case No. CONC/11/1, seat Paris; Cameroon applicable law);
  • Acted for an African state-controlled company in ICSID arbitration under a Power Purchase Agreement, involving a tariff dispute (ICSID Case No. ARB/10/20; seat London; Tanzanian applicable law);
  • Acted for the United Republic of Tanzania in ICSID arbitration in relation to the alleged expropriation of a power plant and the loans granted to finance the construction of the plant (ICSID Case No. ARB/10/12; seat London; BIT UK-Tanzania);
  • Acted for an US oil company in ICSID annulment proceedings against the Central African Republic in relation to the termination of an oil concession (ICSID Case No. ARB/07/2; seat Paris);
  • Acted for an African state in ICSID arbitration arising out of a failed water and sanitation project (ICSID Case No. ARB/05/22; seat The Hague; UK-Tanzania BIT);
  • Acted for an African state-controlled company in ICSID arbitration arising out of a failed power project (ICSID Case No. ARB/98/8; seat London);
  • On behalf of an African State, successfully objected to the registration of an ICSID Request for Arbitration.
  • Acting for the defendant in a USD 1.5 billion fraudulent misrepresentation case (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acting for an Ivorian joint venture partner in a dispute with a US energy company over the construction and financing of a 350 MW power plant in Ivory Coast; (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a Ukraine respondent in proceedings brought by the estate of a Georgian oligarch arising out of the sale of the shareholding in Russian exclusive car dealerships (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a BVI claimant in debt recovery proceeding against a Cypriot company (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a Bahamian respondent in a shareholders and hotel management dispute with an Irish corporate (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for the defendants in a USD 420 million LCIA India arbitration against Qatari investors (seat New Delhi; Indian applicable law);
  • Acted for a Nigerian corporate in the English High Court in an appeal against an LCIA Award, based on Sections 67 and 68 of the 1996 Arbitration Act;
  • Acted for a US respondent in a dispute with a UK claimant arising out of a logistics services agreement in the automotive sector (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a US claimant in proceedings brought against Swiss, French and Belgian respondents in relation to the sale and ownership of cosmetic formulas (seat London; English applicable law).
  • Acted for Microsoft Mobile in three arbitrations against Korean and Japanese manufacturers in relation to damages arising out of an illegal price damages (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a Syrian subcontractor in a construction dispute with a Chinese contractor over a 2,400 MW power plant in Saudi Arabia (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a US oil company in emergency proceedings, followed by arbitration proceedings, arising under farm-in, operating and concession agreements in Cameroon (seat Houston; applicable law Texas);
  • Acted for a Polish joint venture partner in a dispute arising out of a failed IPO and the exercise of put options (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a German corporate in proceedings against the Government of Libya arising out of a contract for the provision of evacuation, logistic and financial services to Libyan war-wounded patients (seat London; English applicable law);
  • Acted for a UK claimant in proceedings brought against a Swiss laboratory over the conducting of pharmaceutical tests and studies (seat Basel; Swiss applicable law);
  • Acted for a Spanish respondent in a dispute with a Kenyan dairy producer arising out of the sale of contaminated milk products to the UN peace keeping troops in East-Africa (seat Nairobi; Kenyan applicable law);
  • Acted for an Asian car manufacturer in proceedings initiated by a Belgian exclusive distributor (seat Paris; Belgian applicable law).
  • Acted for the claimant in proceedings under the Tanzanian Arbitration Act in relation to the termination of a partnership agreement (seat Dar es Salaam; Tanzanian applicable law);
  • Acted for an African water authority in an UNCITRAL arbitration initiated by a multinational water company, in a case involving the termination of a water and sanitation operation and lease agreement (seat London: Tanzanian applicable law);
  • Acted for an African state in proceedings under the Rules of the European Development Fund arising out of a road construction contract (seat Dar es Salaam; Tanzanian applicable law);
  • Represented a contractor in proceedings under the Rules of the Tanzanian Construction Council against the employer (seat Dar es Salaam; Tanzanian applicable law).
  • Chair of a KIAC Arbitral Tribunal in a construction dispute in the water sector between an African contractor and an African state agency (seat Kigali; Rwandan law);
  • Co-arbitrator in a USD 200 million UNCITRAL arbitration between an African conglomerate and an African state in relation to a failed power infrastructure project (institutional appointment by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague; seat Nairobi; South Sudan applicable law);
  • Co-arbitrator in a ICC construction arbitration between a Spanish claimant and Belgian defendant arising out of a construction contract (seat Ghent; Belgian applicable law);
  • Co-arbitrator in an ad hoc arbitration in a mining dispute in Tanzania;
  • Adjudicator in ad hoc adjudication proceedings in relation to a mining dispute in Tanzania.
  • English, French, Dutch, (basic) German

Career History

Partner, Head of International Arbitration, Mishcon de Reya LLP
Partner, Mkono & Co Advocates (Tanzania)
Counsel, Wilmer Hale (Brussels)
Senior Associate, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (Brussels)
Associate, Stibbe (Brussels)

Professional Memberships

  • Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales;
  • Solicitor of the Courts of Belgium;
  • Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Member;
  • LCIA (London Court of International Arbitration; African Users' Council);
  • ICCA (International Council for Commercial Arbitration);
  • ICC (Commission on Arbitration and ADR);
  • IBA (Internal Bar Association; Arbitration Subcommittee & Africa Regional Forum).

Articles and Publications

  • 'Exxon expropriation lawful, rules ICSID', CDR Commercial Dispute Resolution, 16 October 2014 (comments);
  • 'DP World faces corruption claim at LCIA', Legal Business, 10 July 2014 (comments);
  • Case Comment ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/12/6, Lao Holdings NV v. The Lao People's Democratic Republic, Decision on Jurisdiction of 21 February 2014, Lexis Nexis, 10 April 2014;
  • Saint Gobain v Venezuela and Blue Bank v Venezuela: The Standard for Disqualifying Arbitrators Finally Settled and Lowered", 29(2) ICSID Review 2014, 296-305
  • Case Comment ICSID Case No. ARB(AF)/12/6, Lao Holdings NV v. The Lao People's Democratic Republic, Decision on Jurisdiction of 21 February 2014, Lexis Nexis (forthcoming);
  • 'EU Bends Investor-State Arbitration Rules', CDR Commercial Dispute Resolution, 27 March 2014 (comments);
  • 'ICSID arbitrator disqualified by co-panellists', Global Arbitration Review, 21 March 2014 (comments);
  • 'EU launches trade deal consultation', CDR Commercial Dispute Resolution, 22 January 2014 (comments);
  • Investment Arbitration Conference Report, 5(1) CDR Commercial Dispute Resolution (2014), 22-23;
  • 'ICSID disqualifies arbitrator in Venezuela case', Global Arbitration Review, 15 November 2013 (interview);
  • World Bank 2013 Report "Arbitrating and Mediating Disputes – Benchmarking arbitration and mediation regimes for commercial disputes related to foreign direct investment" (contributor);
  • 'Getting to grips with the EU's approach to BITs', 8 (4) Global Arbitration Review, 8 August 2013, 23-26;
  • 'Investment Arbitration Involving African States' in Arbitration in Africa: A Practitioner's Guide (Kluwer Law International, ed. Lise Bosman, 2013, 403-469);
  • 'The New EU Policy on Foreign Direct Investment', International Comparative Legal Guides Arbitration 2013;
  • 'All for a BIT of FDI', 4(3) CDR Commercial Dispute Resolution (2013), 52-55;
  • 'Africa's solid FDI arbitration track record', www.thisisafricaonline.com, 6 March 2013;
  • 'The unfinished work of foreign investor protection in Africa', www.kluwerarbitrationblog.com, 22 February 2013;
  • 'A New Foreign Investment Law in Myanmar', www.kluwerarbitrationblog.com, 23 January 2013;
  • Challenge and Disqualification of Arbitrators in International Arbitration (2012), Alphen aan den Rijn, Kluwer Law International, 1-539;
  • 'Africa's track record in ICSID proceedings', www.kluwerarbitrationblog.com, 30 May 2012.
  • 'Investment treaty arbitration: similar challenges, different outcome', Global Arbitration Review, 21 March 2012;
  • 'Author of forthcoming study on arbitrator disqualification explains why ICSID arbitrators are so difficult to unseat' (interview), Investment Arbitration Reporter, 8 June 2011;
  • 'Arbitration in Tanzania', with N. Mkono & D. Krips, Practical Law Arbitration Handbook (2011), 163-168;
  • 'Arbitration in Tanzania', Global Arbitration Review - Getting the Deal Through - Arbitration (2010), 330-334;
  • 'Arbitration in Tanzania', with W. Kapinga & S. Seifert, Global Arbitration Review - Getting the Deal Through - Arbitration (2009), 297-301.
  • 'Arbitration in Tanzania', with W. Kapinga & S. Seifert, Global Arbitration Review - Getting the Deal Through - Arbitration (2008), 236-240;
  • 'Recent developments in comparative advertising' (transl.), in Tendensen in het Economisch Recht (2006), K. Byttebier, E. De Batselier, & R. Feltkamp (eds.), Antwerp, Maklu, 129-149;
  • 'Commercial co-operation agreements in Belgium: a new law on pre-contractual duties to inform', 17(7) International Corporate and Commercial Law Review (2006), 210-214;
  • 'Article 23bis Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), Handels- en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (2006), Antwerp, Kluwer;
  • 'The fight against counterfeiting: possibilities and limitations' (transl.), 13(3) Cahier du Juriste - Cahier van de Jurist (2006), 33-47;
  • 'Comparative advertising on the basis of objective testing' (transl.), 10 Rechtspraak Antwerpen Brussel Gent (2005), 904-910;
  • 'The controllability requirement of comparative advertising' (transl.), 10 Rechtspraak Antwerpen Brussel Gent (2005), 910-921;
  • 'Comparative advertising: jurisprudence 2002-2004' (transl.), 7 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2005), 746-770;
  • 'Consumer entitled to the same protection throughout the EU' (transl., interview), De Tijd, 14 June 2005;
  • 'Interpretation of comparative advertising by the Belgian Supreme Court does not comply with the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice' (transl.), 66 Droit de Consommation - Consumentenrecht (2005), 32-40;
  • 'Wilmer: un Américain à Bruxelles' (interview, with Y. Van Gerven & F. Louis), L'Écho, 26-28 February 2005;
  • 'Ministers have to respect their own competences' (transl.), 6(103) De Juristenkrant (2005), 1 and 8;
  • 'International jurisdiction of the Belgian courts over unfair commercial practices committed in other EU Member States' (transl., interview), De Tijd, 5 February 2005;
  • 'Programme Act undermines the jurisdiction of the Games Commission: TV-quiz no longer a prohibited game' (transl.), 6(102) De Juristenkrant (2005), 6;
  • 'Price comparisons: the European Court of Justice takes an important decision' (transl.), 10 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2004), 958-967;
  • 'Copie: L'industrie n'a plus d'excuse pour ne pas faire protéger ses droits' (interview), L'Écho, 29-31 May 2004;
  • 'Businesses have no excuses anymore in fight against piracy' (transl., interview), De Tijd, 7 June 2004;
  • 'Counterfeits at the borders of the EU' (transl.), 83 Nieuw Juridisch Weekblad (2004), 1010-1021;
  • 'L'ADR in Belgio', with K. Heinemann, in Composizione delle controversie commerciali con le procedure "ADR" - Opportunita per le imprese, F. Benigni & F. Franzini, Associazione Italiana Giuristi di Empresa (A.I.G.I.), Milan, 2004, 211-219;
  • 'Regulation (EC) No 1383/2003: a new step in the fight against counterfeit and pirated goods at the borders of the EU", 26(5) European Intellectual Property Review (2004), 214-225;
  • 'International jurisdiction over service contracts under Regulation EU n° 44/2001' (transl.), Rechtspraak Antwerpen Brussel Gent (2004), 1344-1347;
  • 'Comparative advertising in the motor vehicle business: a critical analysis' (transl.), 7 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2003), 611-619;
  • 'Fairness in the Distribution Act: a fata morgana' (transl.), 22 Nieuw Juridisch Weekblad (2003), 222-227;
  • 'Sale with loss of services: status questionis after two important Supreme Court rulings' (transl.), 5 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2002), 350-358;
  • 'Comparative advertising: a first overview of the case law after 2 years of application of the new act' (transl.), 4 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2002), 247-265;
  • 'Price comparison under articles 43(4) and 23bis Unfair Commercial Practices Act: a delicate exercise' (transl.), 30 Rechtskundig Weekblad (2001-2002), 1066-1072;
  • 'Article 3 Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 23 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (2002), Antwerp, Kluwer, 69-84;
  • 'The contractual determination of the minimum notice period in exclusive distribution agreements' (transl.), 7 Revue de Droit Commercial Belge - Tijdschrift voor Belgisch Handelsrecht (2001), 458-461;
  • 'The application of the Unfair Commercial Practices Act to financial instruments, effects and values' (transl.), with C. De Vos, Le Droit des Affaires Actualité - Ondernemingsrecht Actualiteit (2000-2001), 11 -13;
  • 'Article 2 Unfair Commerical Practices Act' (transl.), with H. Viane, 18 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (2000), Antwerp, Kluwer, 103-114;
  • 'Article 14 Unfair Commerical Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 16 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (2000), Antwerp, Kluwer, 209-234;
  • 'Article 15 Unfair Commerical Practices Act' (transl.), 16 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (2000), Antwerp, Kluwer, 235-240;
  • 'Joint commercial offers' (transl.), 913 Algemeen Juridisch Tijdschrift (1999-2000), 910-915;
  • 'Article 7 Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 13 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (1999), Antwerp, Kluwer, 201-210;
  • 'Article 8 Unfair Commerical Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 13 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (1999), Antwerp, Kluwer, 211-216;
  • 'Article 10 Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 13 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (1999), Antwerp, Kluwer, 217-220;
  • 'Article 11 Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 13 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (1999), Antwerp, Kluwer, 221-222;
  • 'Article 13 Unfair Commercial Practices Act' (transl.), with P. Wytinck, 13 Handels - en Economisch recht - Commentaar met overzicht van rechtspraak en rechtsleer - Handelspraktijken (1999), Antwerp, Kluwer, 223-230.

Speaking Engagements

  • 'RiskMap Africa Special 2017', Control Risks and Business Council for Africa, 9 February 2017, London;
  • 'Trends in investor-state arbitration', Panel on Challenges of Arbitrators (chair), Inaugural Joint Symposium ICSID-School of international Arbitration (Queen Mary University), 8 September 2016, London;
  • 'Arbitration in Africa: Prospects and Challenges', ICC 2016 Africa Regional Arbitration Conference, 19-21 June 2016, Lagos;
  • 'International Arbitration and its Contribution to the Rule of Law', ICCA 2016 Mauritius Conference, 8-11 May 2016, Mauritius;
  • 'Arbitration Funding: a Practical Evaluation', 9 March 2016, London;
  • 'One year on: assessing the revised IBA Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest in International Arbitration', IBA 2015 Annual Conference, 4-9 October 2015,Vienna.
  • 'EU law and investment treaty law: convergence, conflict, or conversation', European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA), 23 January 2015, London;
  • Mauritius International Arbitration Conference, LCIA-MCIA, 15-16 December 2014, Mauritius;
  • 'Challenge and Disqualification of Arbitrators', Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, 10 December 2014, London;
  • 'Legal Aspects of Doing Business and Mitigating Risk in Africa', US Department of Commerce Conference, Discover Global Markets, Business Forum Series 2014 Sub Saharan Africa, 5-6 November 2014, Atlanta;
  • 'Enhancing Business Opportunities: The Role, Reality and Future of Africa-Related Arbitration', Atlanta International Arbitration Society, 3-4 November 2014, Atlanta;
  • 2014 London Training Week in Investment Treaty Law and Arbitration, Africa International Legal Awareness (AILA), 26 September 2014, London;
  • 'Emerging Issues in International Arbitration: What a New Arbitral; Seat Can Anticipate', Kigali International Arbitration Centre (KIAC) International Arbitration Conference, 25-27 May 2014, Kigali (Rwanda);
  • 'Modern Enforcement of Arbitral Awards', 26th annual Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA) Workshop, 18-19 June 2014, Dallas
  • 'The EU's New Foreign Investment Policy', CDR Arbitration Day, 12 November 2013, London;
  • 'Disputes with a Russian/CIS Private Client element', Conference of the British-Russian Law Association, 8 October 2013, London;
  • 'Challenges Involved in Outbound Investments: Legal Regimes of Host Countries and the Role of International Law', Beijing Foreign Studies University and ABA International Law Section, 16-17 September 2013, Beijing;
  • 'Kluwer Arbitration User Forum', 10 September 2013, London;
  • 'Destination Africa: New York Convention Roadshow and Investment Arbitration', American Bar Association, 26 April 2013, Washington DC;
  • 'The African Dream', BDO and DMJ Legal Seminar, 12 February 2013, London;
  • 'Conflicts of Interests and Challenge of Arbitrators', LCIA African Users' Council Symposium on International Commercial Arbitration, 1-2 February 2013, Lagos;
  • 'Investment Disputes Involving African States', Kluwer 2nd International Arbitration and Mediation Conference, 7-8 June 2012, Hong Kong;
  • Africa and International Law: Taking Stock and Moving Forward Conference, Albany Law School and the African Interest Group of the American Society of International Law, 12-14 April 2012, Albany;
  • Contemporary Topics in Investment Arbitration Conference, Association of International Arbitration, 22 October 2010, Brussels.
  • 'The fight against counterfeiting: possibilities and limitations', Belgian Association of Company Lawyers, 16 May 2006, Brussels;
  • 'Hot Topics Unfair Commercial Practices - New Legislation and Jurisprudence', Kluwer Opleidingen, 25 April 2006, Brussels;
  • 'The New Unfair Commercial Practices Act', Kluwer Opleidingen, 8 November 2005, Antwerp;
  • 'Recent Developments in Commercial Law', Kluwer Opleidingen, 25 October 2005, Zemst;
  • 'The New Unfair Commercial Practices Act', Kluwer Opleidingen, 8 June 2005, Brussels;
  • 'Unfair Commercial Practices', M & D Seminars Topics Commercial Law, 3 June 2005, Ghent;
  • 'IP and Trade Law: Protecting IP Rights at and Across the Border', Examining the Latest Developments in Intellectual Property Law Conference, Wilmer Hale, 5 May 2005, Boston;
  • 'Recent Developments in Comparative Advertising', Consumer Law Conference University of Brussels, 18 November 2004, Brussels;
  • 'Arbitration versus litigation in business disputes', Freshfields seminar, November 2003, Brussels;
  • 'Roadmap to the Judicial Code', Freshfields seminar, March 2003, Brussels;
  • 'Pre-contractual liability and acquisitions', IFE-seminar on International M&A, November 2002, Brussels;
  • 'Franchising in Belgium', Belgian Franchise Federation seminar, February 2001, Brussels.