By John Ikani
The International Criminal Court has sworn in a top international defense lawyer Karim Khan as its new prosecutor.
The 51-year-old replaces outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, who extended the war crimes court’s reach during her nine-year term.
“I solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court honorably, faithfully, impartially and conscientiously,” Khan said at the swearing-in ceremony.
Khan, who previously led the United Nations’ special team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq, vowed to reach out to non-member nations in his effort to end immunity for atrocities.
The new ICC head said he wanted to “build upon the solid ground” left by Bensouda “but also to repair what is broken, to rejuvenate, to revive in the quest for greater efficiency and greater impact.”
“We have to perform in trial. We cannot invest so much, we cannot raise expectations so high, and achieve so little so often in the courtroom,” Khan said in a speech after being sworn in.
What you should know
Khan was elected by ICC member states in February to serve a nine-year tenure, as only the third prosecutor at the world’s only permanent war crimes court since it launched in 2002.
The United States, Russia and China are not members of the 123-member ICC and do not recognize its authority.
The ICC, in need of resources, is currently handling 14 investigations and eight preliminary probes. Khan will be scrutinized as he handles investigations opposed by non-member countries like the United States, Russia and Israel.
The Trump administration sanctioned Bensouda over her decision to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including by American troops, and by Israeli troops and other armed groups in Palestinian territories.
President Joe Biden’s top U.S. diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, lifted the sanctions against Bensouda on April 2.