IBA welcomes election of new ICC officials

Monday 22 February 2021

The International Bar Association (IBA) welcomes the election of Karim Khan QC as the next Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and six judges, as well as the new president, vice presidents and members of the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) – the Court's management oversight and legislative body, composed of representatives of the States that have ratified and acceded to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC.

When Mr Khan succeeds ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on 16 June 2021 for a nine-year term, he will be the third person to hold the position at the world's first permanent international criminal court, set up as a court of last resort to investigate, prosecute and try individuals accused of the worst atrocities: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

Mr Khan was elected after receiving 72 of 122 votes from States Parties in the first contested election held for an ICC Prosecutor. Usually, consensus is built around a candidate, failing that a candidate must secure support from a minimum of 62 of the 123 voting members of the ASP to win. One member did not vote in the second round. The voting procedures were adopted following extensive consultations held by the ASP that failed to come to consensus around a candidate.

The newly elected judges, all for a nine-year term, are Ms Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor (Trinidad and Tobago), Ms María del Socorro Flores Liera (Mexico), Ms Joanna Korner (United Kingdom), Mr Gocha Lordkipanidze (Georgia), Ms Miatta Maria Samba (Sierra Leone), and Mr Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez (Costa Rica).

Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi (Argentina) was elected as ASP President for a three-year period, as were Ambassador Katerina Sequensová (Czech Republic) and Ambassador Robert Keith Rae (Canada) as ASP Vice-Presidents, along with new members of the Bureau of the ASP and its Committee on Budget and Finance.

IBA President Sternford Moyo said: ‘The IBA congratulates the newly elected leadership of the International Criminal Court. As an organisation committed to upholding the rule of law, the IBA has been a longstanding supporter of the ICC and of the ideals that it embodies. We look forward to working with the Prosecutor, Court and States Parties, to assist the ICC in fulfilling its mandate to hold to account perpetrators of the most heinous crimes worldwide and to bring justice for victims.’

Mr Moyo added: ‘It is the saddest fact that our world requires such a court. But sadder still is the fact that governments in the 21st century seek to undermine it and deny justice for victims of the worst crimes perpetrated. Yet, those same governments would most certainly be outraged should the same alleged crimes be committed against their own citizens. The IBA calls on nations across the globe to support the ICC, rather than the contrary.’

As of February 2021, the ICC currently has before it nine situations under preliminary examination, 13 situations under investigation, and 23 cases at the pre-trial, trial, appeals, and reparations phases of proceedings.

During 2020, the Court underwent an Independent Expert Review by a panel of experts who have made recommendations for improvements in almost all areas of the Court’s functioning. Also in 2020, the ICC faced unprecedented political interference from the United States under the Trump Administration, which issued an Executive Order that put in place sanctions against Prosecutor Bensouda and another senior prosecution official – a move condemned by the IBA.

IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis commented: ‘The ICC’s new leadership will take office at a time of great challenges for the Court and for the rule of law globally. As the third prosecutor, Mr Khan will bring the Court into its third decade, and undoubtedly will need to make difficult and principled decisions to ensure the Court’s relevance, and further unlock its latent potential and augment its credibility. But within this moment also lies immense opportunity to build on the work and bold decisions of Prosecutor Bensouda, his soon-to-be predecessor, for whom we reiterate our call for the rescinding of US Executive Order 13928, which imposed Trump-administration sanctions in retaliation for the Prosecutor opening an investigation into alleged US crimes in Afghanistan.’

Regarding the new ICC President and leadership of the ASP, Dr Ellis added: ‘Although facing constricting budgets and other urgent priorities, work must be ramped-up to keep justice and accountability high on the agendas of States Parties and to bring non-States Parties further into the fold. As the global voice of the legal profession, the IBA stands ready to support these leaders and to work alongside them.’

Kate Orlovsky, Director of the IBA ICC & ICL Programme said: ‘Civil society, including the IBA, stand ready to work with the Court and States Parties to continue to improve and strengthen the structure, working methods and outcomes of the ICC. As Prosecutor, Mr Khan will be called on to answer to victims’ demands for justice, and to ensure that all ICC investigations and cases meet the highest legal standards, as well as the highest standards of professionalism and fairness. It will also be essential for the Prosecutor and judges to give full meaning to the high moral character that was a requirement of their election. This includes taking all necessary measures to ensure a safe working environment, and zero tolerance for any form of bullying and harassment at the Court.’

Currently, Mr Khan serves as Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Da’esh /ISIL crimes (UNITAD), a position he has held since July 2018. Mr Khan has extensive experience acting for the prosecution, victims and defence in international criminal trials, including at the ICC, and is the former President of the International Criminal Court Bar Association. Mr Khan has practiced as a barrister since 1992 and has been Queen’s Counsel since 2011.

The officials were all elected at the 19th Session of the ASP that took place at World Forum in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 14 to 16 December, and in resumed sessions at the United Nations in New York from 17–23 December 2020, and on 8 and 12 February 2021.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download Mr Khan QC’s biography.
  2. Related material:
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
  4. The IBA commenced the International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law (ICC & ICL) Programme in 2005. The Programme monitors issues related to fairness and equality of arms at the ICC and other Hague-based war crimes tribunals, and encourages the legal community to engage with the work of these courts. The IBA’s work includes thematic legal analysis of proceedings, and ad hoc evaluations of legal, administrative and institutional issues which could potentially affect the rights of defendants, the impartiality of proceedings and the development of international justice.

    The Programme also acts as the interface between the Courts and the global legal community. As such, special focus is placed on monitoring emerging issues of particular relevance to lawyers and collaborating with key partners on specific activities to increase engagement of the legal community on ICC and ICL issues.

    Based in The Hague, the IBA ICC & ICL Programme consults and interacts with court officials, civil society organisations, academics and international lawyers.

For further information, please contact:

Kate Orlovsky
Director, Hague Office
International Bar Association
Nassaulaan 19
2514 JT The Hague
The Netherlands

Mobile: +31 (0) 70 737 0686
Email: kate.orlovsky@int-bar.org

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association
4th Floor, 10 St Bride Street,
London EC4A 4AD,
United Kingdom

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731 915
Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7842 0094
Main Office: +44 (0)20 7842 0090
Fax: +44 (0)20 7842 0091

Email: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

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