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Taylor’s ex-lawyer heads ICC

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The man, who initially defended jailed former Liberian President Charles Ghankay Taylor before the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, Karim Khan, QC, has been inaugurated as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

A trained British lawyer, Khan replaces Gambian Judge Fatou Bensouda, whose nine-year tenure as chief prosecutor for the ICC, expired Tuesday, 15 June 2021, The Associated Press reports.

Judge Khan was the court-appointed defense lawyer for Mr. Taylor during the former president’s war crimes trial in The Hague which began in 2006, but Taylor dismissed him subsequently in 2007, and opted instead, to defend himself.

However, the former presiding judge in the trial, Ugandan Julia Sebutinde, ordered Khan to stay for the duration of the day’s hearings. But the lawyer walked out on grounds that it was against his code of conduct to represent a client against his will.

In a letter that was read in court at the time, Taylor wrote: “I cannot participate in a charade that does no justice to the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, I choose not to be a fig leaf of legitimacy for this court.”
The court dismissed his claim and Khan went on to defend Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto in 2011 at the ICC who was indicted for crimes against humanity during post-election violence in Kenyan in 2007. The ICC subsequently acquitted both Ruto and current President Kenyetta after Khan argued the charges were too weak and inadmissible.

Taylor later chose Jamaican-born British trained Barrister Courtenay Griffiths, QC, who defended the former Liberian president up to his conviction in 2012 for aiding and abetting former RUF rebels in Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in a British jail.

51-year-old Karim Khan is the third chief prosecutor at the ICC after Luis Moreno Ocampo and Fatou Bensouda, entering the office at a time there are global calls for accountability, justice and end to impunity.
“The priority for me, and I believe that’s the principle of the Rome Statute, is not to focus so much on where trials take place, but to ensure that the quest for accountability and inroads on impunity are made,” he is quoted to have said in reference to the treaty that founded the ICC.

By Jonathan Browne

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