British lawyer Karim Khan has been elected as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He will take over from Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, who held the position since 2012.
Member states of the ICC on Friday, 12th February, elected UK human rights lawyer Khan, who will start his nine-year term on 16th June. He is widely remembered in Kenya for representing current Deputy President William Ruto in his crimes against humanity trial at the ICC in The Hague arising from the 2007/8 post-election violence.
The 50-year-old barrister is known for being at the helm of a special UN investigation into crimes by the Islamic State, during which he put his weight behind a trial similar to the Nuremberg trials for Nazi war criminals.
In a career spanning over 27 years, Khan — who is also a Queen’s Counsel — has worked for almost every international criminal tribunal in prosecution and defence roles, as well as counsel for victims.
He represented late Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam. He put up a spirited defence of Ruto during the ICC hearings.
How was Khan chosen?
Khan was pitted against three other contenders to replace Bensouda, who was slapped with US sanctions under the Trump administration last year for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans.
The vote was triggered in New York after the parties to the ICC could not reach a consensus on a name.
Khan failed to garner a majority in the first round but won the second ballot with 72 votes.
“Karim’s extensive experience in international law will be pivotal in ensuring we hold those responsible for the most heinous crimes to account and gain justice for their victims,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wrote on Twitter.
The Hague-based ICC consists of 123 member states. It has been constrained from the start with the refusal of the United States, Russia and China to join.
The court has also faced criticism for mainly focusing on African countries.
Khan’s first tasks in office will include deciding the course of the investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan and the controversial investigation into the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.