By Susan Kendi
British lawyer Karim Asad Ahmad Khan formally took office as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in a ceremony held on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at The Hague.
Taking his oath in accordance with Article 45 of the Rome Statute, Karim Khan QC stated, “I, Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court honourably, faithfully, impartially and conscientiously, and that I will respect the confidentiality of investigations and prosecutions.”
Khan then signed his oath before ICC Registrar Peter Lewis and Assembly of States Parties (ASP) Vice-President Kateřina Sequensová. His first speech as ICC Prosecutor touched on the States Parties, non-states parties, non-governmental and civil society organisations, defence, survivors, and staff, under which he commented on gender imbalance, sexual harassment, investigation, and presentation of evidence in court.
“…Mr President, but of course, the ICC is not only a court of last resort, in my view, and it is a matter for the honourable judges of the court, The Hague itself should be a city of last resort. Wherever possible, we should be trying to have trials in the country or in the region wherever possible. Of course, it is easier for survivors and victims. It can save costs, reduce the carbon footprint, but also importantly, it shows, we are not in the export business. We are not. We are involved in a body of law that is owned by humanity. It is not of the West or of the East. It is not of the global North or the South; it belongs to each and every one of us,” he said.
Khan has taken over from Gambian-born Fatou Bensouda, making him the third ICC chief prosecutor. He was elected for a nine-year term by the court’s member countries, which form the Assembly of States Parties, on February 12, 2021 after an unprecedented vote.
The swearing-in ceremony was in open court and was presided over by ICC President, Judge Piotr Hofmański, alongside the first and second vice-presidents, Judge Luz del Carmen Ibanez Carranza and Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua. Outgoing Prosecutor Bensouda, ASP Vice-President Sequensová, ICC Registrar Lewis, and International Criminal Court Bar Association President Peter Haynes were also present. As part of Covid-19 restrictions, 15 other judges participated in the ceremony remotely.
Judge Hofmański, referring to Khan’s prosecutorial experience, stated, “I am happy to note that Mr Khan comes to this demanding job with outstanding credentials in the field of international criminal law. He is widely known as a highly capable, determined, and skilful lawyer. For more than 20 years his work has crossed both international and hybrid jurisdictions, including the ICC…I trust that this diverse experience will be of great benefit to him as he assumes his new responsibilities.
“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I refer to this day as a milestone to the court’s lifespan. There are moments when we must pass the torch to other people to carry it forward.”
The ASP vice-president offered congratulatory remarks on the election of Khan, and recognised the efforts of Bensouda.
“Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Khan, on behalf of all States Parties, on his election and assumption of office. As the new Prosecutor steps into office, I would like to praise Ms Bensouda for her courage and unrelenting determination to pursue justice for her and as well as for the passion with which she has carried out her mandate as Prosecutor and before as Deputy Prosecutor. For over almost 17 years she has been with the court, she has left her imprint on international criminal justice. I thank you. Mr Khan assumes office as the truly new face for the court and the Rome Statute system.”
ICC President Hofmański concluded the swearing-in after Khan’s speech.