Karim A. A. Khan QC Elected Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court


Photograph: Michael Kooren/Reuters


Guernica 37 wishes to convey heartfelt congratulations to Karim Khan QC on being elected as the next Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.


In a tightly fought contest against three other strong candidates, Fergal Gaynor (Ireland), Carlos Castresana (Spain) and Francesco Lo Voi (Italy), all of whom were eminently qualified for the position and all of whom would have brought something different to the role, Karim was considered to be the most experienced to lead the Office of the Prosecutor in light of his experience in both prosecuting and defending international cases at the ICC as well as the ad hoc and hybrid tribunals, and his recent experience as the lead prosecutor of the Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) in Iraq.


Karim becomes the third Prosecutor after Luis Moreno Ocampo (Argentina) and Fatou Bensouda (Gambia) and he will have a challenging role in defining policy and organising a unit that has come under increasing pressure to deliver.


The election process has demonstrated the need for reform at the ICC Assembly of State Parties in terms of vetting procedures and whilst it is clear that the strongest and most qualified candidate won, the election at times resembled more a U.S. Presidential Election and there will be lessons learnt from this. The two leading candidates, Karim and Fergal, were forced to defend a record of acting in the interests of their clients, whether it be victims or defendants, in a process that appeared at times to undermine the strength of the rule of law and the adversarial nature of legal proceedings. It is an important lesson to learn and to paraphrase the Code of Conduct of the Bar of England and Wales, a barrister is required, at all times, to promote and advance fearlessly, and by all proper and lawful means, the client's best interests and to do so without regard to their own interests. That is what an advocate is requited to do and that rule of fearlessly defending in a case, whether prosecuting, defending, acting for victims or the State, is what makes the system so strong and so impenetrable from external influence or control. It is something that we should all fearlessly defend.


One word of congratulations to Karim is potentially more significant and more telling than any other. Nadia Murad, Yazidi survivor and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, @NadiaMuradBasee, stated:


Congratulations to my brother @KarimKhanQC, the ICC's newly elected prosecutor. As head of @UNITAD, Karim has been a fierce advocate of justice for the Yazidi people & he will no doubt continue to support marginalized communities by holding perpetrators accountable for atrocities.

At Guernica, we extend to Karim our sincere congratulations and wish him the greatest luck and fortune in developing the institution further as he will need to address a growing number of situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, CAR, Colombia, DRC, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Palestine, Philippines, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

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