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The ICC prosecutor betrayed his professional ethics and is a disgrace for the British legal system

December 4, 2023 at 12:21 pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan (L) in Ramallah, West Bank on December 02, 2023. [Palestinian Presidency – Anadolu Agency]

Since becoming Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in June 2021, Karim Khan KC has not responded to any request for meetings with human rights organisations and lawyers in order to discuss their cases and understand how he plans to complete the investigations set in motion by his predecessor, Fatou Bensouda. Nor has he ever requested a meeting with the thousands of victims to express sympathy with them.

“The Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” announced Bensouda on 20 December, 2019. She asked the Pre-Trial Chamber I to rule on the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction over the situation in Palestine.

The chamber decided unanimously on 5 February 2021 that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over the situation in Palestine and that the territorial scope of this jurisdiction extends to Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. A month later, Bensouda announced the launch of an official investigation into the situation in Palestine, covering crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and committed since 13 June 2014.

Khan’s predecessor issued her decision to open an official investigation after seven years of initial investigations. This was a relatively long period compared with other cases that were left to Khan to take the necessary measures to prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes presented before him.

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However, the British barrister and King’s Counsel has completely ignored all of the crimes presented before him which fall under those stipulated in the Rome Convention, including Israel’s settlements, murders, arrests, torture, attacks on holy places, the siege of the Gaza Strip and the wars launched by the occupation state on the Gaza Strip, in addition to related and separate cases.

Khan’s rapid action on the situation in Ukraine, which followed the request of Western countries that are not party to the Rome Convention, led by the US, exposed his blatant disregard for the Palestine file. Within months, he had completed initial and official investigations, and the ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Prosecutor was widely criticised, and a comparison was drawn between the ICC response to Palestine and Ukraine, where despite the decision to open an official investigation, the Palestine file has remained hidden, while the Ukraine case moved at top speed. This was scandalous for Khan on the personal and professional levels and prompts questions about the ICC’s impartiality and politicisation, especially since the court’s investigations dealt only with Russia and did not address Ukraine.

Nevertheless, there was still hope that Khan would act, until the events of 7 October took place. Yet again, he stayed quiet despite the massacres being committed. He did not issue any statement until he appeared 22 days later at the Rafah border crossing and spoke about the need for humanitarian aid and the investigations his office was conducting into the 2014 war.

Khan’s statements exposed his complete impotence and reinforced Israel’s impunity

It would have been better for him to have stayed silent. His statements on that day exposed his complete impotence and reinforced Israel’s impunity. He followed this with an article in the Guardian in which he strongly condemned 7 October and even promoted Israeli propaganda about rape and arson.

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He then described Israeli crimes as a professional response, including its massacres, destruction and displacement across the Gaza Strip. His message to the occupation state was that it could continue its aggression as long as it proved that its actions are consistent with international humanitarian law.

The dangerous turning point in Khan’s position was his presence in Jerusalem on 30 November, one day before the end of the truce and Israel’s announcement of its intention to proceed with its military operations. The ICC announced on X that Khan was visiting Israel at the request of survivors and families of victims to express his sympathy and that he would go to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority officials.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Khan’s visit was a “surprise” visit. Its announcement was somewhat improvised, with a picture of Khan looking like a tourist in Jerusalem. The newspaper revealed that the ICC Prosecutor had met with some of the families of the Israeli victims in The Hague before his visit.

The Jerusalem Post’s Yonah Bob said that Khan had promised an exclusive interview months ago, but backed down. Instead, during his three-day visit he gave an interview to Haaretz in which he affirmed that what happened on 7 October constitute war crimes, whereas when referring to Israel’s actions he used the word “alleged” carefully and tried not to say anything harsh when describing Israeli crimes.

The Prosecutor’s job does not include travelling long distances to visit a non-member state of the Rome Convention to express his sympathy with victims, especially at a time when victims of a member state of the ICC have been waiting for years to meet the Prosecutor or to have him take any serious action on the files submitted before him.

The post on X did not reveal any intention to meet Palestinian survivors or families of the victims of Israeli aggression. It only indicated his intention to meet Palestinian officials in Ramallah. Should Khan have had a walk anywhere in Ramallah or in any other city or refugee camp, he would have witnessed the violations committed against the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces.

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Moreover, Khan did not express any intention to visit Gaza, which is facing genocide at the hands of the Israeli occupation, which resumed its bombing the day after his visit. Given that Gaza is a very dangerous place at the moment, Khan could have visited the wounded in hospitals in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries to hear their testimonies about what has taken place in Gaza.

This immorality is beyond imagination. Khan spent his time visiting the aggressor occupation state, which is committing genocidal atrocities witnessed on social media in real time. He should have seized the opportunity of the truce to visit the Gaza Strip, but he chose to reveal his ideological bias towards the aggressor. The details of the visit were not revealed, but sources stated that he visited the Gaza Envelope along with military leaders, as did Elon Musk. The Israeli authorities will probably expose him soon and share pictures of his visit.

It is no longer possible to remain silent and accept Khan staying in his position. Between 4 and 14 December, the General Assembly of the International Criminal Court’s member states, the court’s legislative body, will hold its 22nd session. Every effort must be made to convince the General Assembly to dismiss the Prosecutor; it is the only body that can do so, given the flawed ICC system, and the lack of any monitoring of the prosecutor’s work.

Khan has broken his oath of office, betrayed the ethics of his profession, and disgraced one of the most ancient legal and judicial systems from which he came. He has destroyed the principles upon which the International Criminal Court was created, politicising and damaging its integrity and impartiality. It is time for him to go.

Moreover, the ICC is no longer the appropriate body to investigate Israel’s crimes. The Secretary-General of the United Nations should form a special court as was done to investigate the crimes committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Israel must not be allowed to act with impunity. It must be made very clear that it will be held to account.

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