British barrister Karim Khan took over as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday and promised to try only the most serious cases in order to improve his track record.
Under the situation of fierce political pressure on the World Permanent War Crimes Tribunal, Khan is the third person to assume this role, and he faces many challenges.
He succeeds Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia, and his nine-year term ends on Tuesday.
The International Criminal Court is handling a number of sensitive cases, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Afghanistan, where members of the prosecutor’s office became personal targets of US sanctions during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Under Trump’s leadership, Washington’s opposition to Khan’s predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, decided to review Afghanistan’s war crime allegations, including charges against U.S. troops, as well as Israeli troops, Palestinians, and other armed groups in Palestine. Atrocities in the occupied territory.
The sanctions have been lifted, but the US and Israel’s opposition to the court still exists.
‘Build a stronger case’
Khan, 51, swore an oath to complete his nine-year term with honor and justice at a ceremony in The Hague. He said that one of his main tasks is to improve the performance of the prosecutor’s office.
ICC Chief Justice Piotr Hofmanski said at the swearing-in ceremony that serving as a prosecutor is a “hard job”, but praised Khan’s “outstanding qualifications.”
Khan also promised to contact countries that are not members of the court and try to conduct trials in countries where the crime was committed. The world powers, the United States, Russia, and China, are not member states and do not recognize the jurisdiction of the court.
“For me, the priority. I believe this is the principle of the Rome Statute. It is not about paying too much attention to the place where the trial takes place, but ensuring accountability and eliminating impunity,” Khan said, referring to his In the first speech after the swearing-in of office, a treaty of the court was established.
“The Hague itself should be a last resort city,” he said. “Whenever possible, we should try to experiment in this country or region.”
Since its establishment in 2002, the International Criminal Court has convicted five people for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are all African militia leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mali and Uganda. The sentence ranges from 9 to 30 years.
Prosecutors abandoned or lost at least three major cases, or failed to collect enough evidence in other cases for trial.
“Starting a preliminary inspection, requesting authorization, or starting an investigation is the beginning, but as we say in English, the evidence of pudding lies in eating. We must behave in the trial,” Khan said.
He said: “We can’t invest so much, we can’t raise our expectations so high, but we get so little success in court so frequently.”
“We need to better understand what is needed… to build stronger cases in court and get better cases.”
Due to lack of resources, the International Criminal Court is processing 14 full investigations and 8 preliminary examinations. Khan also inherited investigations in countries such as Myanmar, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
Recently, Khan led a UN team investigating atrocities in Iraq and told the Security Council last month that he had found “clear and convincing evidence” that members of the Islamic State of ISIL (ISIS) had been against Yazidi minority in 2014 The nation has committed genocide.
The International Criminal Court was established nearly 20 years ago as the full-time successor to Nuremberg’s trials of Nazi war criminals and several independent international tribunals, hearing situations in the former Yugoslavia.
But for a long time, it has faced criticism from many quarters, including so-called prejudice, the initial focus on cases involving Africa, the huge salary of judges, and the time it takes to bring suspects to justice.
Carsten Stein, a professor of international criminal law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told AFP: “The International Criminal Court is at a critical stage and it has been criticized for not being as effective as countries hoped.”
Bensouda suffered some setbacks. The former President of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo was exonerated from crimes against humanity. The former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba was acquitted on appeal. Kenyan President Uhuru Ken Yatta’s charges against him were dropped.
But she recently received high-profile convictions against Dominic Onwen, the Lord’s Resistance Army commander who was a Ugandan child soldier, and the Congolese strongman Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda.
In her farewell statement, Bensouda said that she “made my decision, after careful consideration-but without fear or favoritism. Even in adversity. Even with considerable personal costs.”