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British human rights lawyer Karim Khan elected new ICC chief

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British Human Rights lawyer Karim Kahn has been elected as the new International Criminal Court chief prosecutor.

He will take over the daunting job in June from the incumbent chief Gambian-born Fatou Bensouda, who was sanctioned by the US over her investigations into the Afghanistan war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Khan, 50, previously led a special UN probe into crimes by the Islamic State extremist group in which he pressed for a trial on the lines of Nuremberg for Nazi war criminals.

More controversially, he also represented late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam.

ICC nations failed to reach a consensus choice, triggering a vote in New York among four candidates in which Khan won on the second ballot with 72 votes.

His first challenges will be deciding on the next steps of an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan and the probe into the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

The administration of then US president Donald Trump hit Bensouda and another senior ICC official last year with sanctions including a travel ban and asset freeze after she launched the probe that includes alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

Israel and the United States have also strongly opposed the probe into alleged war crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.

ICC judges however ruled last week that the court had jurisdiction over the situation in the Palestinian territories, paving the way for a full investigation after a five-year preliminary probe opened by Bensouda.

The new US administration of President Joe Biden has signaled a less confrontational line but has not said whether it will drop sanctions against Bensouda, who has attacked the “unacceptable” measures.