New International Criminal Court chief prosecutor to begin term

Karim Khan QC begins his nine-year term as the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor today, replacing Fatou Bensouda. Khan

Karim Khan ICC

Photo: Michael Kooren/Reuters

Karim Khan QC begins his nine-year term as the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor today, replacing Fatou Bensouda.

Khan has served as both a prosecutor and defense counsel for several international criminal tribunals. Expect Khan’s first tasks to include continuing Bensouda’s investigations into allegations of war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan, as well as the controversial probe into the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. The US, as a non-signatory, had pushed back on both the Afghanistan and Israel case with recently revoked financial sanctions and a travel ban imposed on Bensouda during the Trump administration.

As the ICC attempts to diversify its portfolio of investigations away from Africa, expect Khan to pursue cooperative relations with the US in order to tackle the aforementioned cases. Support from the international community, especially UNSC permanent members, is pivotal to the success of the treaty-based Court. Whilst it is unlikely Biden will reinstate Trump-like sanctions, his administration will continue to deny the Court’s jurisdiction over Afghanistan and Israel. Khan’s efforts to expand the ICC’s investigations will likely prove futile in the long term, as the ICC will struggle to gather evidence without the cooperation of powerful states.

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