British QC has been elected as the new chief prosecutor for the international criminal court in an election by the court’s 131 member states at the UN in New York. Karim Khan will replace Fatou Bensouda from the Gambia, and as he starts his nine-year term he faces a daunting task trying to secure more convictions and spread acceptance of the court’s jurisdiction across the globe.
The secret ballot for the post was the first in the court’s history – and took place amid some controversy and high politics between member states.
Khan, 50, beat candidates from Ireland, Spain and Italy to win on a second round of voting with support from 72 nations – 10 more than the 62 needed.
Khan was called to the English bar in 1992, and has promised to reform the prosector’s office to make it more efficient. He is regarded as a tough, fiercely clever advocate, and was appointed in 2018 by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to lead the UN team investigating international crimes committed by Isis.
The first task of the third prosecutor in the ICC’s short history will be to try to secure more convictions and so increase the court’s legitimacy among the many member states that refuse to recognise its jurisdiction – including the US, Russia and China. The court has also faced skepticism in Africa as leaders from that continent have increasingly become the sole focus of the Hague-based court.
Karim had not originally been on the shortlist for the post and was added partly at the insistence of the Kenyan government. Karim had controversially acted as defence counsel for the Kenyan vice-president, William Ruto, when he was charged with crimes against humanity following post-election violence in 2007 that led to 1,200 people being killed.
The charges were dropped in 2016 by the ICC after what was described as “troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling”. One key witness was killed in December 2014. Khan recently wrote an open letter detailing how he did all possible to prevent intimidation by ensuring the individual was put under witness protection, and then seeking an inquiry.
By the start of this week it looked as if Khan would be chosen by consensus, the ICC’s preferred method of appointment, when last-minute objections came in from Spain and Mauritius.
The objections came from Mauritius focused less on Karim as an individual, but that he was nominated by the British government. Mauritius had been infuriated that UK ministers had for a second time said they had no need to abide by rulings of international UN courts in the dispute over its sovereignty of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Karim will have to decide the next steps on the investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, and the contentious investigation into the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. The European parliament this week called for a worldwide ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, also called for an ICC war crimes investigation into the civil war in Yemen.
The administration of the then US president Donald Trump hit Bensouda and another senior ICC official last year with sanctions including a travel ban and an asset freeze over the inquiry, which includes alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.
Israel – which is also not an ICC member – has strongly opposed the inquiry into alleged war crimes by Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.
ICC judges, however, ruled last week that the court had jurisdiction over Palestine, paving the way for a full investigation after a five-year preliminary inquiry opened by Bensouda.
Why Nairobi MCA are yet to be sworn-in
Nairobi MCAs are divided over the unexpected delay to swear them in more than one month since they were elected. They claim Governor Johnson Sakaja’s silence on the matter is worrying yet elected members in other counties have been sworn in.
“The voters don’t want to know whether we have been sworn in or not. All they want is to be served and promises we made during campaigns be fulfilled,” Odhiambo said yesterday. Odhiambo challenged Governor Sakaja to convene the first sitting by Thursday as it had been speculated.
His Gatina Ward counterpart Kennedy Swaka said some members were now operating from the streets and cyber cafes since they had not been sworn in.
“It’s shameful that other county assemblies have kicked off business yet here in Nairobi, we are being told to loiter in streets because the governor is trying to buy time,” Sakwa said.
However, Peter Imwatok, the outgoing Minority Whip argues that the MCA’s have no mandate to pressure Governor Sakaja before the constitutional timelines lapse.
Imwatok, who is serving his third time as Makongeni ward member, says the Constitution stipulates that the members must be sworn in before 30 days after the gazettement of nominated members.
Having too many Twitter followers could slow down your US visa application
Having a legion of followers on social media could slow down the processing of your US visa application, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb Macharia Kamau warned MPs.
Kamau told MPs that due to the American legislation, individuals who are politically active are always on the government’s radar.
“Once you become a Member of Parliament and your Twitter handle has got one million followers, that is enough to trigger the fact that you are now a politically exposed personality. This will result in your Visa [application] being referred to Washington and once it goes into reference, it joins a long queue…sometimes it can take up to three or four months,” Macharia said during the induction of Members of Parliament (MPs) at Nairobi’s Safari Park hotel.
At the same time, the PS said that some Western nations were using the visa issue to safeguard their national interests.
“If they don’t like a certain MP when they come for visa application, they will give all sorts of excuses such us; your visa has been referred, there is a backlog, etc. And before you know it, you have given up. Your intended reason for travel is crashed,” he said.
The Principal Secretary said the vigorous process is a result of American foreign policy shift that began during President Barack Obama’s reign and identifies people who are politically active.
Raila-backed candidate wins Kisumu Speaker race
Mr Elisha Oraro who was being backed by the ODM leader Raila Odinga in the race for speaker of the Kisumu County Assembly narrowly carried the day after a spirited fight by his opponent Samuel Ong’ow.
He garnered 25 votes against Mr Ong’ow’s 22 in a duel decided in a second round of voting. The first round saw Mr Oraro get 24 votes against 23 votes cast for his opponent. The other contestants attracted no votes.
Mr Oraro was the speaker of the last assembly, a house that impeached his two predecessors. When nominations closed at noon on September 19, seven people had submitted their papers for the Speaker race.
They included Mr Oraro, Mr Ong’ow who is also a former majority in the same House, lawyer Kenneth Oduor Amondi, James Kounah Ochieng, Victor Otieno Odongo, Linda Ogweno Atieno and Nelson Lennoa Jalango Adul.
Of these, only four met the threshold required for the position. They were Mr Oraro, Mr Ong’ow, Mr Amondi and Mr Kounah. The other three were not proposed and seconded by any of the elected MCAs.
On Monday, almost half of the elected MCAs boycotted a meeting attended by Mr Odinga, a gathering whose agenda was to rally the lawmakers into voting for Mr Oraro.
It was the highest level of defiance so far to the opposition leader that has annoyed the rank and file of the ODM party.
For the position of deputy Speaker, only two candidates – Vincent Odhiambo Obuya and Nereah Akoth Okombo – had been cleared, leaving out Joachim Oketch, who held the seat when the last assembly dissolved.
More than a week ago, Mr Oraro got a major boost when ODM nominated him as its candidate for the seat for a second time.
Mr Oraro had a foot in as he sought to keep the seat he inherited after the previous assembly impeached Onyango Oloo over corruption claims.
In a September 8 letter, ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna notified assembly Clerk Owen Ojuok of the party’s notice about picking Mr Oraro as its preferred candidate.
Before the vote was cast, the Nation had it on good authority that the number of MCAs supporting Mr Oraro and Mr Ong’ow, the two main contenders, was a tight 23-24, and that the race could go either way. In the end, Mr Oraro carried the day.
Only 24 elected MCAs attended a dinner meeting held at the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel, as the others allied to Mr Ong’ow skipped it, the result of serious lobbying that could embarrass Mr Odinga if MCAs from his Kisumu backyard reject his candidate and elect someone else.
The Kisumu assembly has 47 MCAs – 35 elected and 12 nominated.
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