The world criminal court gets a new chief prosecutor. The Briton Karim Khan was elected late Friday evening in New York – after a lengthy and difficult process.
The representatives of the 123 contracting states filled the most important post of the International Criminal Court. Much is expected of the 50 year old Khan. Khan replaces chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (60) from Gambia, who is leaving office in June after nine years.
The chief position in the court on the edge of the dunes in
The Hague is not easy, Khan has to meet high expectations. He should be a charismatic boss, a brilliant lawyer and a brilliant diplomat. In fact, international criminal law is a political minefield.
A “great lawyer”
If you read the lawyer’s curriculum vitae, he meets all the requirements. Khan is currently leading the investigation into war crimes by the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) in Iraq on behalf of the UN and has long experience in international criminal law as a prosecutor at the UN tribunals on Rwanda and ex-Yugoslavia. But he also appeared several times as a defense attorney at the World Criminal Court. He is a “great lawyer”, say observers, and a “terrifyingly clever master strategist”.
Khan succeeds Fatou Bensouda (60). The lawyer from Gambia is leaving office in June after nine years. The ir balance sheet is meager: Sluggish procedures and hardly any successes. In 18 years there have been only 13 judgments, nine of which were guilty and four were acquittals. And that at a cost of more than a billion euros so far.
The new accuser is also expected to improve that record.
Many observers see the court at a crucial point. Human Rights Watch said that Khan was elected at the moment “that the court is needed more than ever and is faced with internal weaknesses as well as external pressures”. The law professor in the USA, Milena Sterio, spoke of a “credibility crisis” at an Internet forum.
That is certainly not only to be blamed on the prosecution.
The court depends to a large extent on the support of the international community. For example: in 2009 it issued an arrest warrant against the former head of state of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, for genocide in Darfur. But he is not extradited.
Investigations in Palestine
For years the prosecution was accused of only pursuing crimes in Africa. This could change now. Bensouda investigates war crimes in Afghanistan. And the judges only recently gave the green light to investigations in Palestine. But this would make lawsuits possible against US military and CIA employees or Israeli officers. Israel is fighting massively against this and is supported by the German government, among others.
And right now, when a new positive wind is blowing in Washington. US President Joe Biden is much more friendly to international justice than his predecessor Donald Trump, who still imposed sanctions on the prosecutors. But Biden will not accept trials against US citizens either. Neither the United States nor Israel, Russia and China recognize the court. For the simple reason that they don’t want their citizens to be charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
The charges are under pressure, said Italian professor of international criminal law, Chantal Meloni. The court loses credibility if it is “weak in the strong states and strong in the weak states”.
“Culture of fear”
And then there are the internal problems. A commission of experts led by the South African judge Richard Goldstone presented a report on the functioning of the court last year. Conclusion: bureaucratic, immobile, inefficient. The report comprises 348 pages with 384 recommendations.
The results on the working atmosphere for around 900 employees are downright shocking.
The experts reported a “culture of fear”, discrimination, alleged sexual harassment and an authoritarian regime.
The new chief prosecutor must also initiate a cultural change in his own house. (apa, dpa)