Karim Khan’s Challenge in Upholding the Sierra Leone Special Court Legacy

by Sierraeye

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan is in Freetown to attend the Legacy Conference of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Like many at the Conference, he has extolled the virtues of the Court and its legacy of upholding the rule of law.

Yet, Khan’s actions speak louder than his rhetoric. Despite his affirmations that the legacy of the Special Court should serve as a model for international justice globally, Khan’s tenure as Prosecutor has veered sharply away from two fundamental pillars of that legacy: the principle that no one is above the law and the imperative to prioritize and protect victims, regardless of their nationality or the political sensitivities of their cases.

The prosecution of former Liberian head of state Charles Taylor by the Special Court for Sierra Leone delivered a resounding message: that even the most powerful individuals are not immune from accountability for their actions. It built upon the precedent set by the Pinochet case, affirming that justice knows no bounds and that those who commit egregious crimes must face the consequences, irrespective of their status or influence.

Yet, in stark contrast to this legacy, Khan has displayed a concerning pattern of selective justice, bowing to political pressures and prioritizing cases based on geopolitical considerations rather than the severity of the crimes committed. While the ICC’s mandate is to prosecute individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for committing serious international crimes, Khan’s approach appears to be swayed by the whims of powerful states, undermining the Court’s credibility and integrity and betraying its core mission of ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

In addition, Khan’s failure to adequately address allegations of war crimes in Palestine, despite clear evidence and referrals from ICC States Parties, stands in stark contrast to the Special Court’s commitment to prioritizing victims’ right to redress, dignity, and protection. By neglecting to pursue justice for Palestinian victims, Khan is not only forsaking the core principles of the ICC but also perpetuating a dangerous narrative that suggests that certain victims are less deserving of justice based on their nationality.

Similarly, Khan’s swift action in launching an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, while commendable, highlights the appalling double standards in treatment between victims from different regions. While Ukrainian victims deserve accountability for the atrocities they have endured, so too do the countless Palestinian victims who have suffered under the weight of occupation and unspeakable atrocities.

As Khan, who was once a Defence lawyer at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, extols the legacy of the Court and underscores the importance of transitional justice, his actions betray a fundamental departure from the principles upon which that legacy was built. The ICC cannot claim to uphold the rule of law and protect victims if it yields to political pressures and selectively applies justice based on nationality or geopolitical interests.

To honour the legacy of the Special Court and live up to its promise to deliver impartial justice, the ICC must hold perpetrators accountable without exception and prioritize the protection and rights of all victims, regardless of their background. Anything less would be a disservice to the pursuit of justice and a betrayal of the very principles upon which the Court was founded. The ICC must remain steadfast in its commitment to impartiality and unwavering pursuit of justice for all.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy