British lawyer Karim Khan, new Attorney General of the International Criminal Court

It is the new face of the International Criminal Court (ICC). British lawyer Karim Khan was sworn in on Wednesday June 16 as the institution’s new chief prosecutor, the only permanent court for war crimes in the world. He starts a complex mission including controversial investigations into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and investigations in Afghanistan and the Philippines.

The 51-year-old lawyer was sworn in publicly today at the seat of the court in The Hague. He was elected in February in New York by the States Parties to the Rome Statute, the founding text of the Court.

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“I solemnly undertake to fulfill my functions and to exercise my powers as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court with honor, fidelity, impartiality and conscience”he told the court.

The ICC faces a series of failures

He took over from the Gambian Fatou Bensouda, who has come to the end of her nine-year term, hailed for having expanded the scope of the work of the ICC but who has also suffered several bitter setbacks, such as the acquittal of the former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo.

A human rights specialist, Karim Khan previously held the post of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, where he was responsible for leading the UN special investigation into the crimes of the jihadist group Islamic State. Karim Khan has also intervened on the defense side in numerous trials before the ICC, notably for Seif Al Islam, a son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Voluminous files and complex cases await the successor of Fatou Bensouda, including the request for authorization to investigate the war on drugs in the Philippines announced on Monday, the investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan and the investigation of the conflict Israel -Palestinian.

Files in progress on Ukraine and Nigeria

In her farewell statement, Fatou Bensouda assured that throughout her mandate, she had made her decisions “with care, but without fear or favour. Even in the face of adversity. Even at considerable personal cost”.

She also said that she had intended to ask for an investigation into the crimes committed by government forces in Venezuela, but was prevented from doing so at the last minute after an intervention from Caracas. , asking the judges to take the reins of the case. A court decision is awaited.

Fatou Bensouda also aimed to open investigations in Ukraine and Nigeria, files that she now leaves in the hands of her successor. The new prosecutor will also face opposition from major powers that have refused to join the ICC, such as the United States, Israel and China.

A “crucial phase” for the ICC

“The ICC is in a crucial phase” after having suffered numerous criticisms for not having been “as effective as States Parties wished”, said Carsten Stahn, professor of international criminal law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. For Carsten Stahn, the arrival of Karim Kahn could represent a “opportunity to reform the court”regularly criticized for the high salaries of its judges and the slowness of its procedures.


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