The British Man Who Wants to Arrest Netanyahu and Putin: Who is Karim Khan?

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, yesterday submitted requests for the issuance of warrants for the arrest of several officials before the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

by Sededin Dedovic
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The British Man Who Wants to Arrest Netanyahu and Putin: Who is Karim Khan?
© Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, submitted requests for arrest warrants for several officials to the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber in The Hague regarding the situation in the State of Palestine.

Among them are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a statement on the ICC's website. This prompted strong reactions from Israel and the United States. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the arrest warrants requested by Khan against him and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as "absurd and false" in a video statement last night.

Netanyahu stated that the move was aimed against the entire State of Israel. "It is aimed at Israeli soldiers (IDF) who fight with supreme heroism against the vile killers of Hamas," the Israeli leader said. Netanyahu questioned how anyone could dare to compare "the monsters of Hamas with the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world." A nearly identical reaction came from the United States.

U.S. President Joseph Biden deemed the ICC's request for arrest warrants for Netanyahu, along with senior Hamas members, as "outrageous" due to actions taken in Gaza. The American president unequivocally sided with Israel, The Guardian reports, after ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant, Israel's Defense Minister.

The prosecutor's statement prompted Biden's most explicit comments in support of Israel in recent months, as the president accused the ICC of drawing a false moral equivalence between the country and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2006.

"To be clear," he said, "we reject the ICC's request for arrest warrants for Israeli leaders. Whatever these warrants may imply, there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. What is happening there (in Gaza) is not genocide," Biden stated.

Out of 193 UN member states, several are not members of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, including the United States and Israel.

Peace Palace, International Court of Justice© Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

In March last year, Prosecutor Karim Khan provoked an angry reaction from Russian officials when he issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine.

The Hague court issued a warrant for Putin's arrest due to suspicion of the unlawful deportation of children and the unlawful transfer of people from Ukrainian territories to the Russian Federation. The arrest warrants followed a day after a UN-supported investigation accused Russia of committing widespread war crimes in Ukraine, including the forced deportation of children from areas it controls.

The Kremlin called these charges and warrants "outrageous" and "senseless," Al Jazeera reported. Thus, Briton Karim Khan "united" Russians and Americans in an angry reaction to the decision to bring war criminals to justice – in Ukraine and Gaza.

Who is Karim Khan?

In February 2021, Karim Khan was elected by representatives of the 123 member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the Chief Prosecutor of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. His term lasts for nine years.

Khan was previously an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. As the Chief Prosecutor of the court in The Hague, he holds one of the most challenging positions in international law due to the nature of the cases the court handles, Al Jazeera writes.

The administration of then-U.S. President Donald Trump, it is recalled, imposed sanctions in 2020 on Khan's predecessor Fatou Bensouda and one of her senior aides because they continued to investigate allegations of war crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.

Briton Karim Khan is a lawyer specializing in human rights. He led a special UN investigation into the crimes of the ISIL group and sought trials similar to those for Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. Khan was a Crown Prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales and was appointed Senior Crown Prosecutor in 1995.

In his career spanning nearly three decades, Khan – who was also a defense counsel for Queen Elizabeth II – has worked for almost all international criminal courts in roles as prosecutor and defense, as well as an advocate for victims.

Khan spent several years engaged in leading cases at the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

In 2008, he was appointed chief advisor to former Le Monde journalist Florence Hartmann, who was the chief spokesperson for the ICTY and Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, when she was charged with contempt of court. He later served as chief advisor to Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto before the ICC and chief advisor to Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister Fatmir Limaj before the EULEX court in Kosovo from 2014 to 2017. Karim Khan was born on March 30, 1970, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to a Pakistani father and a British mother.

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