Karim Khan. Pragmatic ICC prosecutor impervious to criticism

Karim Khan. Pragmatic ICC prosecutor impervious to criticism
Karim Khan. Pragmatic ICC prosecutor impervious to criticism

“You judge the tree by its fruits,” Karim Khan said when he was sworn in as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2021, setting the tone.

Nearly three years later, his request for arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders shows he does not shy away from controversy.

ICC selection panel describes Karim Khan as a charismatic and eloquent communicator, well aware of his achievements

Last year, the court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, which landed Mr. Khan on a wanted list in Russia.
Controversies have also marred the career as a lawyer of the Briton, now 54 years old, who notably defended the former president of Liberia Charles Taylor against allegations of war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Experienced in high-profile international cases, Mr. Khan also defended Kenyan President William Ruto in a crimes against humanity case before the ICC – which was ultimately abandoned.

He was also the lawyer of Seif al-Islam, son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Intervening from all sides of the courtroom helps lawyers stay “with their feet on the ground,” Mr. Khan told the trade journal OpinioJuris.
This also avoids “corrosive attitudes, such as thinking that the defense lawyer is the devil incarnate or that as a prosecutor, you are doing ‘God’s work’,” he added.

If we don’t apply the law equally, we will disintegrate as a species, says Khan

A few months after taking office as prosecutor general of the ICC, he removed from the priorities of the investigation in Afghanistan the examination of crimes attributed to American forces to concentrate on Islamist groups. A decision that he justified by “limited resources”, attracting the wrath of human rights organizations.

Also criticized for not having acted quickly enough to prevent atrocities in Gaza, Mr. Khan sparked a storm by requesting arrest warrants from judges on Monday.
Mr. Netanyahu called the request “a moral scandal of historic proportion.” For his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, also targeted, it is “despicable”.

Recently, senior US Republican officials wrote a letter threatening Mr Khan and his family with a ban on entry to the United States. Despite the threats, he stood his ground.
“We are not going to let ourselves be influenced” by threats, public or not, he told CNN.

“This is not a witch hunt (…) It is a forensic process that is expected of us as international prosecutors,” he insisted.
Born in Scotland, Karim Khan first studied at a private school in the north of the United Kingdom, before studying law at King’s College London.

He then cut his teeth in international law in the former Yugoslav and Rwandan war crimes tribunals from 1997 to 2000, before representing survivors and relatives of victims of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia before a sustained tribunal. by the UN.

His other duties include a stint at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, created to bring to justice the assassins of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005.
The ICC selection panel described him as a “charismatic and eloquent communicator, well aware of his achievements”.

In his speeches, he demonstrates great frankness and great mastery of rhetoric, sprinkled with touches of British humor.
A member of the minority Muslim sect Ahmadiyya, he often peppers his speeches with “Inshallah” (God willing).

“Karim Khan seems to be a pragmatic lawyer, which I respect,” Melanie O’Brien, visiting professor of international law at the University of Minnesota, told AFP.
Her role requires “a certain courage, because you know that you are going to find yourself facing people who do not agree with you and who do not agree with the Court in general,” she added. .

“It is very dangerous to succumb to popular demand. It is very important to follow the evidence,” Mr Khan told AFP in a 2022 interview.
The stakes are high, he believes. “If we don’t apply the law equally, we will disintegrate as a species,” he assured CNN.

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