Episode 45 – Karim Khan and UNITAD

Karim Khan (Photo by UNITAD)

For the last installation of our Prosecutor Files, this week we caught up with incoming ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, who graciously agreed to be on our podcast as a man who does not need to worry too much about haircuts (asymmetrical or otherwise).

Karim is leaving a three-year long position as Head of UNITAD — the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh. How did the experience shape him professionally and influence his future approach to the ICC Prosecutor job? We discussed dealing with pressure and expectations from institutions and victims, new approaches, and what’s next for the pursuit of justice in Iraq.

For context, you can have a look at two guides for investigators which UNITAD produced under Karim’s leadership, about how to deal with witnesses who’ve experienced trauma and the other about use of technology in international criminal investigations.

Aside from outing himself as an Asymmetrical Haircuts fan, Karim just finished reading The Golden Thread, by Ravi Somaiya, an investigation about the plane crash that killed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1961.

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This podcast has been produced as part of a partnership with JusticeInfo.net, an independent website in French and English covering justice initiatives in countries dealing with serious violence. It is a media outlet of Fondation Hirondelle, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

read a transcript of this episode

Disclaimer: Asymmetrical Haircuts is produced as a podcast, meaning it is meant to be listened to and not read. Because of this, we recommend that you listen to the episode while reading, because the written word does not do justice to the emotion or tone used by our speakers. However, because we recognise there might be bandwidth issues or you might be using a hearing aid, we have provided written transcripts for all our available episodes.

Karim Khan [00:00:00] Victims have a right to be impatient. They have every right in the world to demand justice.

[INTRO TUNE]
Justice plays an important role.
I consider this tribunal a false tribunal, and indictments false indictments.
Such abhorrent crimes must not go unpunished.
Proceedings will be long and complex.
All rise.

Stephanie [00:00:26] Welcome to Asymmetrical Haircuts, I’m Stephanie van den Berg, and I’m here with my co-host, Janet Anderson, and today’s podcast is supported by JusticeInfo.Net. 

Janet [00:00:35] Now, there’s a bit of background that we need to get through in order to introduce today’s guest. 

Stephanie [00:00:39] He’s been leading an investigative team and he has a mandate to examine a wide range of crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. 

Janet [00:00:46] He’s got just one territory, Iraq, and a major non-state armed actor, known variously as Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh. 

Stephanie [00:00:57] He has witnesses to: “Executions, torture, amputations, ethno-sectarian attacks, rape and sexual slavery imposed on women and girls”, according to the website. And what makes his job so difficult is that thousands of children were actually victims, witnesses and forced perpetrators of some of the crimes that he’s investigating. 

Janet [00:01:20] And there are more than 200 mass graves that have been found in the place where he’s working. 

Stephanie [00:01:26] And in case you haven’t guessed it yet, our guest today is Karim Khan, British barrister, Queen’s Counsel, outgoing head of UNITAD, and that’s the acronym for the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Daesh. 

Janet [00:01:40] And he’s about to become the new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. So welcome, Karim. 

Karim Khan [00:01:45] Thanks so much, Janet and Stephanie, for the honour of inviting me to Asymmetrical Haircuts. I came despite the very inappropriate title for a man that is as bald as myself. But thank you so much, it’s a joy to be with you both. 

Janet [00:01:58] Well, we just wanted to start off by getting the picture of… you’ve been in this position, it’s just about three years, you’re the Special Advisor, you’re the head of this team. Just take us back to the beginning. What were your priorities when you started?

Karim Khan [00:02:13] The approach was really to serve the mandate and discharge the responsibilities that had been set by the Council. And it was to build a team, unlike the Syria mechanism, the IIIM that had a commission of enquiry that preceded it, told the Myanmar mechanism that had a fact-finding mission. We had nothing, we had a resolution, we had terms of reference, and I walked into an office suite in New York and I was told: “build a team and deploy to Iraq”. And that’s what we did. So, the expectations really at that point were, in parallel, to build a team, to recruit people that are competent, that are energetic, that are dynamic and that are committed to service. We are international public servants, lawyers, investigators, analysts, security staff, administrative staff, HR, all of us in this joint endeavour. So one is to move from a concept, from a piece of paper that was passed in the lofty chamber of the Security Council unanimously in September 2007, and to create a team. And then to create a team with a purpose. I think that was a key aspect, that it wasn’t just to gather information, to become a repository where later on people do their PhD thesis and it will gather dust or it can be part of a museum. The key expectation for survivors is that their rights to justice are vindicated. The people that have raped them or killed their loved ones or tortured them, that have thrown people off buildings because of their orientation, every kind of depravity, every type of crime that was characteristic of this most un-Islamic state, that those victims from across Iraq, all communities, all religions, all ethnic groups that were targeted by Daesh, they would see the law in action. They would see investigations that gave honour to the promise that every life matters, every human life has a value. And that meant inextricably speaking to the victim groups, building relationships with NGOs. And that’s what we try to do. 

Stephanie [00:04:31] And how do you avoid overpromising and under delivering to victims? Because that’s obviously a huge risk. You come, there’s a lofty decision on how to make this, you come in this this little room, you meet victims, they want accountability, they want justice, they want a platform to tell their story. How do you manage expectations in a way? 

Karim Khan [00:04:53] I think honesty is the key to that. Victims have a right to be impatient. They have every right in the world to demand justice. When I was appointed, the crimes started in 2014, 2015, 2016, 17. I was appointed in 2018. They have every right to be miffed, to say “well, what about this promise of the international community to protect lives? What about the promise of never again?” It looks a travesty of justice given their experiences. But at the same time, I had no problem to tell victims early on I was… A number of victims said “Please, you must call it genocide”, they wanted action. And I say, “I’m sorry, I understand what you’re saying”, but, you know, different governments, European Union, different NGOs, different states had made political determinations or an assessment based upon broad brush strokes regarding the legal characterisation. But I said, look, for us to really serve our mandate, we are different. We are criminal investigators, we are lawyers, we have a burden of proof that we have to ensure is met, and I’m not able to do it now, but we will do it as soon as we can once we’ve built a team and we’ve done the necessary due diligence. And the other aspect that is really important is telling them from the outset there’s no hierarchy of victim. But when you are building a team and there’s so much diversity, Kurd and Arab, Kakai, Shabak, Christian, Yazidi, Shia, Sunni, Turkman, you can’t possibly do all of that. So, I made a determination early on that I would focus in year one on crimes against the Yazidi, crimes in Mosul and the massacre of mostly Shia air cadets and other personnel in [Camp] Speicher. But I told the other community “Please bear with me, I can’t stop doing active investigations, but we’ll do our utmost to get resources to do that”, and I think they appreciated the honesty. And in the end, we managed to do that, now we have every community have crimes against them being properly investigated. So it’s honesty. 

Janet [00:07:04] You’ve mentioned that the mandate was given to you by the [Security] Council and you’ve mentioned also other states, and, you know, that sort of descriptions or designations or decisions about what these crimes are. How has it been to try to manage with, you know, really powerful states actually looking over your shoulder and maybe putting pressure on you? 

Karim Khan [00:07:28] Well, it depends. I mean, NGOs can also put pressure on you. States have their jobs, NGOs have their job, civil society have their job. The role of professionals is to have thick enough skin and good enough judgement to understand the difference between pressure and legitimate communication. And I think when it comes to states, the reality in international law, states are the foundation. And whether they are looking over your shoulder or have your back is a matter of perspective, but it’s also a matter of engagement to make sure that communication is good and that we build this common ground. End of the day, which state, which NGO, which victim, which survivor, which human being would be in favour of the ideology, the crimes of Daesh, which debased the human spirit against man, woman and child? And it’s about building that consensus and showing that it’s in the interests of everybody to support international justice and the rule of law. And I think that requires communication, requires explanation. It also requires… the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It requires states to see that this is not a vanity project, that it is geared to effective fulfilment of the mandate so that it adds value to the quest that different states have to accountability. 

Janet [00:08:49] Just to understand that kind of symbiosis with states, I mean, you’re in a very difficult security environment, a lot of your security is provided by the United Nations, but maybe also from other states as well, that, you know… How does that work when you’re working with states that are giving you something but you’re also asking for something from them and trying to be independent. How do you manage that balance? 

Karim Khan [00:09:16] I mean, everywhere where the United Nations works, absent a Chapter 7 resolution in circumstances like Kosovo, but even then, you have a United Nations mandate. There’s a host country, there’s a host country agreement, and whether it’s humanitarian assistance, political missions like UNAMI [United Nations Mission in Iraq] an accountability mechanism, we have a non-derogable obligation to be independent and impartial. You take the assistance, for example yes, we have about a third of our staff is security, because we in a very high-risk area in Baghdad, in Mosul, in the KRG area. When you go to Sinjar, it’s close to the Syria border that’s led to hostilities, and IEDs. But in addition, we do have the envelope of security that the state, the host state also provides. And it’s a partnership and you do that in a way that it doesn’t encroach upon the protection of witnesses or the ability for witnesses to engage with us confidentially. You make sure that every mission is properly planned, witness protection is put in and have a voice, and you make sure that those essential ingredients of an independent investigation are properly fulfilled. And it requires sometimes a banging of heads, sometimes requires communication. But very often at the end of the day, we’re in somebody else’s country, And I think we’re there not coercively with that invitation of Iraq, with a unanimous Security Council resolution. And I think, you know, sometimes slow and steady wins the race, constant communication, explanation, and to show those mutual advantages, notwithstanding that there may be difficulties, also bumps along the way, is the only way to build that consensus for international justice, which anyway is done in partnership with states. It can’t be done otherwise. 

Stephanie [00:11:14] Apart from the from the successes that you had in the sense of establishing all those investigations into things that are coming out in your reports, at your last appearance at the U.N. you presented also two new guides for investigators, and we will take each of those in turn, and also maybe ask a bit about how you will take those guides and what you’ve learnt into your new job. But first, you put out a trauma informed field guide, making sure that your teams understand how to deal with witnesses who experienced grave trauma. Can you outline kind of what the most important thing is that is needed that you’ve learnt? 

Karim Khan [00:11:53] I think this was an earlier initiative when I joined UNITAD. Very often we have different witness protection, but I think it’s viewed very often as an issue of only physical security or for even sometimes psychological support in terms of gender crimes. But the reality, every witness that you… almost every witness one encounters, from theatres where there’s been such mass atrocities are suffering trauma in one form or the other, either they directly witnessed it, they lived through it, they’ve lost loved ones, or they’ve been targeted by it. And really, it was a realisation that psychosocial support, this multidisciplinary partnership between lawyers, investigators, psychosocial and the whole team, is essential if we’re to do more than pay lip service, to ‘do no harm’ as a principle. And it can’t be an afterthought, it can’t be done only at the stage when witnesses are identified. It must be done early on when you actually engage with witnesses, for at least two reasons. Firstly, it helps ensure a trauma-informed approach, it helps advise the investigators how they should approach and tailor the questioning, the modalities of interviewing, the mode and manner of questioning, depending if it’s a child or a witness with different characteristics or traits or trauma, but also realisation that it’s not only a function of ‘do no harm’, but common sense that a witness feels in the safe space, that feels more comfortable, that feels less anxious. It’s going to, all things being equal, give a more complete and more coherent and a more cogent narrative, that will be a more accurate reflection of what the witness has seen or heard. And I think that also is a right of the witness, because if the witness does come to court, they’re going to be cross-examined on that statement, and I think it’s an obligation of us to have the honour of engaging with those witnesses to make sure we don’t give easy hits to the defence because of imprecise or less than thoughtful, well-planned interviews. And that was the obligation, that inspired the trauma-informed approach field guide. 

Stephanie [00:14:24] I thought it was really interesting as a journalist also to read through it, and I, apart from reading also other things on how to deal with journalists, with traumatised people that you might interview, I think you really should… anybody who’s doing this in this field should really read that guide. And I thought there were very small but very practical things that you also put on that list, always have an outside space where you interview them, maybe a different town, would also always have enough tea and water and snacks available so that people don’t have to go out to get other things. And I felt that’s such an easy way to put people at ease and I wonder how many U.N. investigators think of that as a general rule, and I thought it was really lovely to see that kind of care put in the guide. But I’m wondering what the challenges are of implementing that in reality, because of when you are on scene, there’s a lot going on. I’m thinking of my job as a journalist, sometimes there’s a lot going on, maybe this is better planned, but there’s always things that happen unexpectedly and people that turn up that could be witnesses that you can interview then and there, and you don’t know when again. So how does it work in practice? 

Karim Khan [00:15:39] Yes, that’s a great question. First, I must pay credit to the team because this guide, it was a partnership. Our clinical psychologists, our investigation lawyers, but wonderful partnership with Stanford University Human Rights and Trauma Clinic, led by Dr. Daryn Reicherter, who’s appeared as an expert witness at the ICC on many occasions, and Beth Van Schaack and the team over at Stanford. It really was a joint initiative and really it was using the authority that was given in the resolution to enter into agreements and states, organisations or corporations. You’ll also see reference to the Sesame Street videos that we have of psychological trauma, which I’m particularly excited about, I think is a wonderful initiative. In terms of the rest of your question, I think investigators need to have a blueprint to turn their mind to various issues, to have a basic SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures]. And you’ll see that I took the decision to annex even SOPs to the trauma informed guide, not because they’re perfect, but I took the view is, you know, we want to have the best practises so that the evidence we collect has the greatest chance of being admitted before courts, and if people read it and there are things that are not perfect that can be improved and of course, that will be, provided an email address, if these letters do inform us about it, the living documents will improve it. But every system, every witness is unique. And I’m a firm believer you can’t take a template and shove it down the throat of a witness and force the witness to comply with stereotypes. We should adapt our process to the witness, not the witness adapt to us. And this is why what the trauma informed approach looks at is look at individual. Don’t come your own baggage, your expectations, children are incompetent and not capable of giving their accounts, they are much more resilient, far better witnesses than very often give them credit for, they have a right to give their stories. The same in terms of issues of gender-based violence against men or women or children, for that matter; leave our own assumptions at the door, listen to the witness, be informed by certain traits, but at the end we should… the witness we physically see should actually be seen, not just be viewed as a component in an investigative plan. And I think that’s the underpinning of the trauma informed approach. Adaptation is fine as long as it’s done by way of expertise and proper understanding of what our role is in the process and the key role of the victim or the witness. 

Stephanie [00:18:12] In the guide for trauma-informed investigating there’s also a whole chapter on self-care for your own team. Can you explain maybe what has changed for you over the years and the need to have this self-care? Because you also, in your different guises as a prosecutor, as an investigator, also as a defence lawyer, have heard lots of testimonies about atrocities that happened. What’s the thing that you would pull out, the most important advice?

Karim Khan [00:18:40] The most important advice is in the same way that every witness is different, every professional, every human being, we’re all different, this is the beauty of humanity. So people react differently to different stimuli, to different emotions, to different experiences. I think, in terms of the management we have a duty of care to our staff and that embraces not only the physical security, it also embraces the psychological well-being. Now, this is heavy work, difficult work. The emotion of hearing testimonies from survivors is immense, but sometimes much more for the interpreters than for the lawyers, who are interpreting the first person, it becomes… the evidence of that is a very attritional process. So the first thing is to realise there’s no gold medal for conducting an interview. If you don’t feel able to do so, you should be able to say, “I’m not ready for this, I can’t do this”. Particularly when we have Iraqi members of the team, but also others. Different crimes may resonate because of people’s history in different ways and also at different times in their life. And so, people should feel absolutely fine to say “look, I can’t do this at the moment”. If you’re a Yazidi member of the team or a Kaka’i member of the team or even an international member of the team and you feel is too tough, don’t go through it because it’s not fair to the witness. The other aspect is, of course we have UN counsellors, we have our own clinical psychologists who really function, to help us do better for the witness rather than the self-care stuff, because counselling is for that and they’ve got to keep their own professionalism because they’re colleagues, they are not only counsellors. But we have training, and we make it an open discussion. We also have entered partnerships, for example with Microsoft Humanitarian, using modern technologies as a way. So, for example, with the awful videos you have of Daesh throwing people off buildings or executing people in lines or burning people alive or children with guns, as horrific as you can imagine, drowning people, putting them in water and the bodies come up and they’re lifeless corpses; this technology will also allow faces to be pixelated, the evidence. And you can almost screen it so that, of course, you have to handle that evidence to understand it, but it can alleviate needless visual watching of these videos that can keep causing secondary trauma. And I think that’s also an important way to limit the potential of second trauma of our staff members. So it’s a combination of training processes, but also using technology and realising the best ways your colleagues as well there shouldn’t be stigma relation to some evidence being difficult to absorb. 

Janet [00:21:20] Thanks for making the segue into the technology side of things, because you’ve also put out this use of technology guide, a little bit shorter than the other one. There isn’t a huge amount of detail in there, but for me it feels really exciting that this is the future for international criminal justice investigations. Can you maybe give us an example, you give given one already of pixelating faces, is there a particular visualisation that you’re particularly proud of, that you can tell us about, that you said this is this is how we should be doing it in the future, how we should be using technology? 

Karim Khan [00:21:58] Yes, I think technology can’t replace the human aspect, but it’s an important resource to facilitate and accelerate the work that we have to do. With the larger data sets with Daesh, imagine how many social media posts, how many publications, how many videos were broadcast by ISIL over 2014 to 2017, even today. But particularly in that period, and you know, if you look at it, even on some of the videos we had awhile back, if you watched it continuously for twenty-four hours a day, is more than a year and a bit of video. And it’s much more now than it was when I had that statistic. So, you know, using technology is important, but for me what’s more important for technology is using it an integrated way. It’s not about the bells and whistles, just to say well, this is a shiny, exciting piece of tech and that’s an exciting piece of tech, is having a joined-up approach to technologies which is integrated in what we’re trying to do, which is to pierce the veil of criminal responsibility, to build cases against those ISIL members that committed these violations of international humanitarian law as effectively as possible. And I think it can’t be taken in isolation, I mean, we have software for example that has facial recognition, we have technology to improve the sound and audio quality, we in situ, on our website, the 3D of the school. All of these are important in the end to help both preserve evidence, to understand the evidence and to identify perpetrators, and particularly in mechanisms like UNITAD, where we are an investigative team on the lookout for a court. We don’t know where that court is, we don’t know is it civil law or common law. We don’t know… We hope a law will be passed soon, at least in the KRG. And we know even in Iraq judges may not always… it’s not a static security situation, it’s quite dynamic, fluctuating. So even within Iraq, certain site visits may be not without peril, and definitely European courts and elsewhere are difficult to come. So it’s a way of taking the crime scene to the court when courts can’t visit the crime scene. So these are a range of uses of technology, which I think are essential now in any effective investigation that’s been conducted. We need to be in the 21st century. 

Janet [00:24:24] I think we’ll definitely use that phrase, an investigative team in search for a court, you really get that sense of what it is that you are doing. But we do know that there’s been some kind of a mechanism or court of some kind established in Iraq, I believe, there are new laws that we’ve covered previously on the podcast to do with reparations for victims. So how is your evidence already being used and how do you expect it to be used? We’ve already said you don’t know, but why don’t you give us a sketch? What do you want to see happen? 

Karim Khan [00:24:56] Well, I’ll say what we’ve done so far. We’ve provided assistance, we’ve had requests from 13 states in the world in relation to ISIL crimes. We have had testimonial evidence into courts in Europe, with other courts. We’ve facilitated a field work at the investigation stage interviews in Iraq. We’ve shared evidence in relation to financial investigations because, financial investigations regarding ISIL crimes don’t carry the death penalty. The bill regarding the domestication of international crimes in Iraq, a bill has been presented to the government in Baghdad, but it’s not moved forward in the way that we hoped. But just before my Security Council report, the prime minister of the KRG had been working with them as well as the Baghdad authorities, they are committed now to a law that we believe, if all the amendments that we’ve suggested are incorporated, which I have been told they will, that will meet international standards and it will allow fair trials in the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq, and would allow the possibility to prosecute ISIL or members for genocide and war crimes. So that’s the legal path that is underway. 

Stephanie [00:26:11] And your UNITAD is one of the new generations of mechanisms, like the IIIM in Syria and the IIMM in Myanmar, because the Security Council won’t or doesn’t agree to send these cases to more established courts. Is this the way forward or wouldn’t an established court or tribunal be better? And is that also maybe why you’re moving on to an established court or tribunal? 

Karim Khan [00:26:37] Well, I mean, the ICC has an important part to play and having an ability to investigate and then to test the professionalism, the dedication, the sufficience of evidence by independent judges is the final stage of a process, otherwise, that’s what is really tested. But I think the quest for accountability, we shouldn’t be parochial about it. I don’t think it matters too much for most victims where justice takes place as long as it takes place, so the edifice of complementarity that underpins the Rome Statute is what we’re trying to do in Iraq. It’s the primary responsibility of the state where the crimes have been committed. So I think what’s really important is collectively as a civilisation, countries states take the responsibility seriously, increasingly seriously, that when there are crimes of this magnitude, there’s no option. It requires it as a matter of international law, as a matter of economic interest, as a matter of stability and security, as a matter of moral right, as well as legal responsibility, that they need to be investigated and they need to be prosecuted. And the choices, the forum become secondary, as long as they are independent investigations and there are independent professional judges, and I think that is the real thing that victims want when these crimes take place in the first instance. It is a result of people being marginalised in most cases. A space is opened up in which people are being vilified because of their gender, their colour, their creed, their religion, their orientation. They have not felt fully enfranchised in the fabric of society, and what we have to do at the very least, is that when those haemorrhages take place we must vindicate the rights that every human life matters and that every life that is taken, within the jurisdiction that we are dealing with, is properly investigated and those culprits are held accountable. And then the evidence can be determined, the sufficiency of evidence can be determined by judges, it needs to be tested. And that’s only right and appropriate. 

Janet [00:28:47] You’re handing the reins over now of UNITAD, so this isn’t really your responsibility, but I wanted to understand from your perspective, when does UNITAD’s work finish? How do you know when you’re finished in this kind of a situation? 

Karim Khan [00:29:03] Well, I stated in my last report to the Security Council, it’s for Iraq to decide when it’s finished. We have seen in the Nazi Holocaust crimes, even more recently, people come out of the woodwork, they are identified, there’s no statute of limitations for these barbarous acts, there’s a responsibility to make sure that they are properly investigated. What I’ve stated in the last report is that I think also there’s not an appetite to have mechanisms for twenty-five years – the Council, states also need to put those resources in other parts of the world where unfortunately of things are happening. So what I’ve proposed in the last report is that within three years of the laws being passed, I would hope at least we can do specimen cases against the main community, so the Christian, Yazidi, the Shia, the Sunni, the Kaka’i, the Shabak, gender crimes, the Turkmen, so that all those communities would have so-called evidence based investigations and then judicial determinations in relation to the crimes committed against them, then is for Iraq to decide when is enough enough. And it may be because we have Iraqis working on an equal footing within UNITAD, because Iraq is the primary intended recipient, because it is a partnership, if they see the value of the law in operation, not as preaching, not as some kind of import from abroad, but something that is being built within the structures of Iraq, they may say “well, this is a jolly good thing, it honours the survivors, it counters the violent extremism that plagues humanity”, and maybe they will want to do more of it themselves. And that’s a matter for them. But in terms of UNITAD’s mission, I think within three years we can then start moving, of the law being passed. We’re ready to go to feed into that with agreements regarding the death penalty and other things, and then we can look at moving to a residual mechanism in which the evidence then can still be preserved, gathered to feed into other states that are identifying members of Daesh that have come back into third countries or those that are found in Iraq or in the region. 

Stephanie [00:31:19] And you are about to take over the helm as the new International Criminal Court prosecutor. Are you chomping at the bit, ready to go, or you think you will need some time to get into stride? How should we judge your first hundred days? 

Karim Khan [00:31:37] Kindly. Generously. 

Stephanie [00:31:42] Are there some things that you take from this UNITAD experience that you definitely want to bring to the ICC, for example the very last trauma-informed approach to victims? 

Karim Khan [00:31:42] I think there’s always lessons in life that you’ve learnt from mistakes, from successes, and all of those will inform my approach, hopefully, when I commence my term as prosecutor of the ICC. And I also know that I will learn from colleagues at the ICC so that hopefully the decisions I make in terms of these decisions, the investigative decisions, the legal decisions, are as solid as I can make them. And of course, none of us are perfect, there will be mistakes that are made, I will make mistakes, but I will always endeavour to do what I’ve done in my life, try to be sincere, try to be straightforward, to listen but also don’t shirk decisions, realising that we have a tremendous privilege, all of us that are involved, lawyer, non-lawyer, there’s no hierarchy even there, we all need each other as a component, because we are going to be forgotten in the blink of an eye. And we are doing something that resonates beyond time. It goes back to the Holocaust and the gas chambers, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Balkans, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and of course Iraq, Syria and Myanmar, and the list goes on and on and on. And I think that sense of responsibility, that sense of service, is really essential for us to discharge the responsibility so that when we breathe our last, we feel that we did our best notwithstanding mistakes and then for those mistakes we also forgiveness and mercy. 

Janet [00:33:11] Well, as journalists we certainly will not be able to promise to be constantly generous. We will always be critical, always sniping from the sidelines with our quick news takes and sometimes our deeper analysis. But thank you very much for taking the time to chat to us now. We always have a few extra questions that we ask our guests, let me just start with the first one, which is there anything that we should have asked you that we haven’t asked you, yet that you wish that you’d had a chance to talk about? 

Karim Khan [00:33:34] No, you kindly didn’t ask me about my barber on Asymmetrical Haircuts so apart from that, there’s nothing additional that you left out. So, thank you.

Stephanie [00:33:45] Another question we ask, which is a bit of an American job interview question, is in the interest of embracing your failures, is there anything that you’ve had to really change your views on over the course of your career, that you in the beginning thought it’s this way and then kind of found out that maybe not? 

Karim Khan [00:34:02] There’s probably so many to mention that you can’t even think of them. I mean, life is a journey of trying to keep our eyes open and ears open and be aware of our human fallibilities, and a quest to wisdom and knowledge and learning. And I think along the way, of course, on so many issues, you learn by way of experience, you learn from others, and particularly in this area, not just from the big states that Janet spoke about, over your shoulder or at your back as the case may be, but from the greatest heroes whose story we helped tell, which are the victims and survivors and do more, people who have endured much more than any living soul should ever have to endure. And I think that’s a constant message, constant education that they provide. And I think we are really… we should be humbled and really privileged to listen to those stories and to try to play a small part in their right. And it’s hard to discharge our responsibility to ensure justice for what they have endured. 

Janet [00:35:08] And our final question is what are you reading at the moment or listening to, if you happen to be a podcast person, or what are you bingeing on Netflix? What’s on your nightstand or in your queue? 

Karim Khan [00:35:22] You mean podcasts beside Asymmetrical Haircuts? 

Janet [00:35:25] Absolutely. Of course you listen to us… 

Karim Khan [00:35:29] I’ve just finished reading a book by I think his name is Ravi Somaiya, it’s called The Golden Thread. It’s a book regarding the investigation into the crash, the killing of the great Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld. So that’s worth reading of course Mohamed Chande Othman who was on the IER, he was the chair of [part] and before that he was the chair of the Eminent Persons for the United Nations for the recent report that was completed. 

Janet [00:36:03] Great, thank you. Thank you for sharing that with us and thank you for for sharing your time with us. We really appreciate it.

Karim Khan [00:35:58] It was a pleasure, thank you so much. 

Stephanie [00:36:00] Thank you for taking the time. And I see that you haven’t moved to The Hague yet, judging from your background, unless you have a very clever digital background, but I don’t see leafy sun that which I’m seeing outside my window nearby The Hague. 

Karim Khan [00:36:14] I’ll be coming to The Hague in a few days, hopefully my travel is arranged, my problem is arranged and my visa is arranged. 

Stephanie [00:36:21] I’m sure it has been. 

Karim Khan [00:36:24] Thanks so much. 

Stephanie [00:36:25] And we’ll see you in The Hague. Thank you. 

Disclaimer: This transcript was generated using online transcribing software, and checked and supplemented by the Asymmetrical Haircuts team. Because of this we cannot guarantee it is completely error free. Please check the corresponding audio for any errors before quoting.