Watch: ICC was Built for Africa and Thugs Like Putin, Karim Khan CNN interview
By Sofie G
May 21st, 2024

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan during CNN interview today with Christine Amanpor:
“I had some elected leader speak to me and be very blunt, this court [ICC] was built for Africa and thugs like Putin”

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan Discusses Court’s Mission and Criticisms in CNN Interview

In a revealing interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan spoke candidly about the court’s mission, challenges, and the perception of its focus. Khan’s comments shed light on the ongoing debate about the ICC’s role in global justice, particularly in relation to its perceived focus on African leaders and recent actions against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During the interview, Khan recounted a stark conversation he had with an unnamed elected leader who bluntly asserted, “This court [ICC] was built for Africa and thugs like Putin.” This statement encapsulates a significant criticism the ICC has faced over the years: the belief that it disproportionately targets African nations while being hesitant to pursue powerful figures from more influential countries.

Historical Criticism and Perception of Bias

Since its establishment in 2002, the ICC has been embroiled in controversy regarding its perceived bias. Many African leaders and observers have accused the court of focusing excessively on Africa, arguing that it has become a tool for Western powers to exercise control over the continent. This perception was particularly pronounced during the early years of the ICC, when a series of high-profile cases were brought against African leaders, including Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Khan acknowledged these criticisms, emphasizing that the ICC is committed to impartiality and justice, regardless of geographic or political considerations. “The ICC's mandate is to pursue justice without fear or favor,” Khan said. “Our focus is on the crimes, not the nationalities or continents. Justice must be seen to be done universally.”

Recent Actions and Global Scope

The recent issuance of an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin marked a significant moment in the ICC's history, illustrating its willingness to take on cases involving powerful figures from outside Africa. Putin was charged with war crimes related to the conflict in Ukraine, specifically the abduction of children. This move has been seen by some as a step towards addressing the perception of bias and reinforcing the ICC’s commitment to global justice.

Khan highlighted that the court’s actions against Putin were consistent with its mission to hold accountable those responsible for the gravest offenses, irrespective of their position or influence. “The charges against President Putin demonstrate that no one is above the law,” Khan stated. “We are determined to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and our actions are dictated by the principles of justice and the rule of law.”

Balancing Criticism and Credibility

Despite these actions, the ICC continues to face a delicate balancing act. It must address historical criticisms while maintaining its credibility and impartiality. Khan underscored the importance of the ICC’s role in providing a forum for justice that transcends national boundaries and political interests.

“We are aware of the criticisms and the perceptions that exist,” Khan admitted. “However, our commitment is to uphold the rule of law and to ensure that victims of the world"

Related Stories