ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan: What You Need to Know

Mr Karim Khan with Deputy President William Ruto at the ICC.

Renowned human rights lawyer Karim Khan is set to take over as the next International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor for the next nine years following his landslide election to succeed outgoing Fatou Bensouda.

Khan withstood stiff competition from other lawyers forcing a second round of voting in which he garnered a total of 72 votes, 10  more than the required.

The elections were held on February 12, 2021, and he will assume office in June.

In Kenya, Khan is a popular name having represented Deputy president William Ruto and former Head of Public Service and Commissioner of Police Hussein Ali in the ICC when they were accused of committing crimes against humanity.

He did his work so well that, all the cases collapsed.

However, a section of Kenyans, especially those affected by the 2007 post-election violence do not hold him in high esteem.

Khusoko.com brings you some of the details about the high flying lawyer that many did not know.

Karim Khan when he appeared as Defence Counsel for Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo ©ICC-CPI/Toussaint Kluiters
  • He’s a Briton
  • He has been a barrister for over 28 years
  • Currently, he’s serving as the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations after being appointed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to serve as the first Special Adviser and Head of the investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Da’esh/ISIL crimes (UNITAD).
  • He’s the Queens’ counsel since 2011.
  • He has appeared in some of the world’s largest international criminal cases for defence and prosecution including the ICC, ICJ, ICTR, UN SPSC, ICTY among others.
  • He is a recorder, (part time judge) of the Crown County of England and Wales.
  • June 2017 – June 2018: President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA)
  • July 2018 – Worldwide Ambassador of the African Bar Association


Mr Karim Khan with Deputy President William Ruto at the ICC.

From his detailed CV, one can see that Khan has vast experience in international law with an excerpt from the CV indicating as quoted below:

“In November 2008, Karim Khan was appointed co-lead counsel in one of the first cases before the International Criminal Court, Prosecutor v Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo (Former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo for crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic.) (Article 25 charges not confirmed by ICC PTC, instead confirmation of charges under Article 28 of the Rome Statute).

Between 2008-10 was lead counsel representing Darfuri rebel leader, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, the first ICC suspect to voluntarily surrender to the jurisdiction of the Court and the first time that a case was dismissed at the confirmation stage. (After a contested confirmation hearing, all charges were not confirmed by PTC and Prosecution application for leave to appeal, dismissed.

In March 2010 instructed for two additional Dafuri rebel leaders, Abdullah Banda and Saleh Jerbo. Worked with the OTP, Registry and others to ensure the voluntary appearance of these two suspects before the court in June 2010. This was the first case in the ICC where confirmation was not contested by the defence and case fast-tracked to the trial stage.

In January 2011, instructed as lead counsel to represent Ambassador Francis Muthaura, Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Public Service of Kenya. After active investigations in Kenya and extensive litigation, all charges were withdrawn by the Prosecution in March 2013, before the trial commenced. This was the first time the Prosecutor of the ICC has withdrawn charges in a case that had been confirmed.

Instructed as lead counsel for William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya. Full in-depth investigations conducted in Kenya including forensic evidence, cell site evidence, documentary, testimonial and OS investigations conducted. This case ended in 2016 with a successful “no case to answer” submission by the Defence.

In 2016 (until June 2018) appointed as lead counsel for Dr. Saif Al- Islam Gadafi strictly limited to the issue of an admissibility challenge to the jurisdiction of the ICC based upon an assertion of double jeopardy / ne bis in idem.”

His full CV can be found here.