Karim Khan will succeed on June 16 the outgoing Attorney General of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Gambian Fatou Bensouda. Member countries elected the 50-year-old British lawyer as the next attorney general on Friday 12 February.
He was chosen against three other European candidates in the second ballot, winning 72 votes out of the 122 cast. A human rights specialist, this lawyer recently led a special United Nations (UN) investigation into the crimes of the Islamic State group. During this investigation, he called for trials similar to that experienced by the Nazi leaders in Nuremberg.
Karim Khan has served as a defense lawyer in numerous ICC cases, including for the son of ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Saif Al-Islam. He first trained in international law at the former International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where he served as legal advisor to the prosecutor’s office. He then moved on to defense and represented Kenyan Vice President William Ruto before the ICC.
The Briton was also a defense lawyer for ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, before a special court for Sierra Leone, and a lawyer for the Special Court for Lebanon, established in The Hague, created to bring to justice the assassins of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, in 2005.
Decide on the follow-up to the investigation of crimes in Afghanistan
Established in The Hague, the ICC has a total of 123 members out of the 193 that make up the United Nations. The United States, Russia, China, or even Israel, are not part of the ICC.
Elected for a nine-year term, the one who will be the Court’s third prosecutor since its creation in 2002, will be in charge of voluminous files and complex cases, in a tribunal whose legitimacy is constantly being challenged. cause.
“There are many places in the world where the Court could act”, however, said an ambassador, on condition of anonymity. It is “A young institution”, and “We don’t need less, but more [de justice internationale] », he adds.
The first responsibilities of the new prosecutor will be to decide on the next steps of the investigation into the war crimes in Afghanistan and the one, particularly controversial, which concerns the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of 2014 in Gaza.
A mixed record for Fatou Bensouda
Last year, the administration of former Republican US President Donald Trump targeted Fatou Bensouda and another senior ICC official, imposing sanctions on them, including a travel ban and a freeze on their assets, due to an investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.
Israel and the United States have also strongly opposed another investigation into alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups. Last week, however, ICC judges declared the court to have jurisdiction over the events in the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for a war crimes investigation.
Mme Bensouda leaves behind a mixed record, even though, according to specialists, she has broadened the scope of the ICC. Under his leadership, former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo was cleared crimes against humanity, while the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba was acquitted on appeal. The Kényan Uhuru Kenyatta also saw charges of crimes against humanity dropped.
Butme Bensouda recently secured high profile convictions against Dominic Ongwen, a Ugandan child soldier who became commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda. The ICC is the world’s only permanent court for war crimes. She has often been criticized for having mainly taken charge of the affairs of African countries.