ANU Law scholar appointed special adviser to ICC prosecutor

Prof Kevin Jon Heller
Professor Kevin Jon Heller with his co-edited 2019 book, 'The Oxford Handbook of International Criminal Law'. Photo: Tom Fearon/ANU

I am deeply appreciative of the faith Prosecutor Khan has placed in me.

Professor Kevin Jon Heller, an international law scholar at The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law, has joined an elite list of special advisers to Mr Karim A.A. Khan QC, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Professor Heller will assume the role of Special Adviser on International Criminal Law Discourse.

“In my role, I hope to help the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) maximise the effectiveness of its messaging — both internally, in terms of the kinds of arguments it presents to the judges, and externally, in terms of how it communicates its work to the Court’s stakeholders, such as states, victims, and civil society,” said Professor Heller.

“Although the OTP’s primary function is, of course, to prove the guilt of the individuals it charges with international crimes, its work is necessarily affected by broader issues within international criminal law, such as the ability of great powers to undermine the equal application of the law and the tension between peace and justice.”

Professor Heller notes that the ICC is at the centre of some of the most important and most controversial situations involving allegations of international crimes — Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine, Darfur. He is hopeful that the OTP will continue to develop a track record of successful prosecutions under the tenure of Prosecutor Khan.

“I am deeply appreciative of the faith Prosecutor Khan has placed in me. He and I have known each other for a long time since we were each involved in defending suspects at the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), and I worked for him while he was the head of UNITAD — the UN team investigating Da’esh crimes in Iraq.

“He is one of the most talented barristers I have ever seen, and he proved his management ability by building UNITAD essentially from scratch in the middle of a global pandemic. I have no doubt that he will be a breath of fresh air at the ICC, which has — as is well known — struggled to be relevant over the first two decades of its existence.

“Nothing breeds success like success: if the OTP can prove its effectiveness, states should be willing to provide it with better support.”

Prosecutor Khan announced the appointment of 17 special advisers on Friday 17 September 2021.   

"I am delighted to welcome such an outstanding group of experts and I am grateful for their willingness to serve as my special advisers. I have no doubt that with their enormous experience and hugely impressive credentials, they will significantly contribute to the work of the Office and the cause of international criminal justice. I very much look forward to working with and learning from them," said Prosecutor Khan.

The OTP reports that the selection of the new special advisers, who have been carefully chosen from a range of geographical regions, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and gender diversity, has aimed to gather a broad range of expertise and experiences from diverse legal systems and specialisations.

A meeting will soon be convened by the Prosecutor to plan the work ahead and to coordinate between the respective mandates and portfolios of the newly appointed special advisers.

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Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team