By Prudence Minayo
Karim Khan is a renowned British lawyer who has been practicing law for almost three decades. He is best known for heading the United Nations’ special investigative team looking into Islamic State Crimes in Iraq. In Africa, he has represented a number of leaders, lawyers and victims of injustice from different countries including Kenya, Libya, Liberia, Cameroon, Sudan and Sierra Leone.
On Friday, February, 12th 2021, he was elected the new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for a 9-year term starting on 16th June. He won a secret ballot among three other candidates to replace the outgoing lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.
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The British lawyer was born in 1970.
In 1992, he was called to the bar of England and Wales. He then attended Wolfson College at Oxford University for his doctoral degree.
From 1997, he worked as a legal officer at the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
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Until 2000, he served as Legal Advisor at the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Khan has represented many high profile clients at different international tribunals.
Between 2006 and 2007, he was lead defense counsel to former president of Liberia Charles Taylor before the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
In 2008, he was lead counsel to former Le Monde journalist , when she was charged with contempt of court.
Between 2008 and 2010, he was engaged as lead counsel before ICC representing Sudanese rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda. This was the very first ICC suspect to voluntarily surrender to the jurisdiction of the court.
At the beginning of 2011, he was elected to represent Francis Muthaura before the ICC in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 election violence in Kenya. Francis Muthaura was part of the famous Ocampo 6- popular Kenyan personalities who had allegedly incited violence after the 2007 general elections. President Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto were among those facing charges of crime against humanity at the ICC.
Later, Khan served as lead counsel for deputy president William Ruto before the ICC. He also previously served as lead counsel for Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo Fatmir Limaj before the EULEX Court in Kosovo for about 4 years. He was also the lead counsel for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Baghdadi Mahmudi at the ICC.
From February to September 2017, he represented some Anglophone human rights lawyers who had been charged with terrorism among other offenses before the military court in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Khan also led the team that advised Cham and Albanian communities in relation to their expulsion from Greece, and subsequent expropriation after the second world war.
The renowned lawyer was lead counsel for victims of violence in Sierra Leone arising from the ECOMOG intervention in 1999-2002. He represented more than 100,000 victim claimants from the Kipsigis and Talai communities in Kenya seeking redress for alleged human rights violations during the colonial period.
Khan has been based in Baghdad, Iraq and serves as Special Adviser and Head of the Investigative team for the Promotion of Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL in Iraq (UNITAD). This organization was established in 2017 pursuant to security council resolution 2379. He leads the team in achieving its mandate in the collection, storage, and preservation of evidence related to crimes committed by Da’esh/ISIL; to work with survivors in recognition of their interest in the achievement of accountability for crimes to which they have been subjected to; to respect the sovereignty of the government of Iraq in performing this investigation.
Karim has been a member and is still a member of a number of organizations and committees including:
- A member of the Law Commission of England and Wales between 1996 and 1997.
- A life member of the Human Rights Institute, and International Bar AA founding director of Peace and Justice Initiative, this is an NGO in Hague that deals with effective implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC at national levels.
- A member of the executive council and Victim’s Committee of the ICC Bar Association (ICCBA-ABCPI) from June 2017 to June 2018.
- In July 2018, he was recognized as a worldwide ambassador of the African Bar Association
- In 2011, he was appointed Queen’s counsel and is a member of Temple Garden Chambers London.
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