A lawyer from the UK has been elected as chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, defeating Irish man Fergal Gaynor. 

Karim Khan was elected prosecutor after two rounds of voting in New York.

The post has been described as one of the most prominent and influential roles in the international community. 

49-year-old Fergal Gaynor, an Irish barrister, who has worked in international criminal law for almost two decades, had been nominated by Ireland for the position. 

An election by secret ballot was held for the first time in the court's history after the 123 states who are parties to the court failed to reach a consensus.

The successful candidate needed 62 votes to be elected.  After the second round of voting, Mr Khan had 72 votes and Mr Gaynor had 42. Mr Khan's nine-year term will start in June this year. 

Mr Khan will replace outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, from Gambia, who is due to step down in June after nine years in one of the most challenging jobs in international justice, with a mixed record of success at the Hague-based court.

Fatou Bensouda

Mr Khan becomes the court's third prosecutor since its formation in 2002 and will be taking on a bulging file of difficult cases at a tribunal whose legitimacy is constantly under attack.

Mr Gaynor has previously represented victims of crimes at the ICC in probes including the Afghan war investigation and a case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Khan has been a defence lawyer in several ICC cases, including for late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam.

He recently headed a UN special probe into Islamic State group crimes and called for trials like those of Nuremberg of Nazi leaders.

The new prosecutor's first tasks will include deciding the next steps on the probe into war crimes in Afghanistan and the hugely contentious investigation into the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

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

Israel and the United States, neither of which are ICC members, 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, paving the way for a full investigation after a five-year preliminary probe opened by Ms Bensouda.

The Biden administration has signalled a less confrontational line but has not said whether it will drop sanctions against Ms Bensouda, who has attacked the "unacceptable" measures.

Ms Bensouda has had a mixed record even as she expanded, some analysts say overextended, the court's reach.

Under her leadership former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo was cleared of crimes against humanity, while former DR Congo vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba was acquitted on appeal.

Mr Kenyatta also saw charges of crimes against humanity over electoral bloodshed dropped by Ms Bensouda.

But she has recently secured high-profile convictions against Ugandan child soldier-turned-Lord's Resistance Army commander Dominic Ongwen and Congolese warlord Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda.

She has also been credited with improving the prosecutor's office compared with her predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, whose leadership was described as "autocratic" in a probe ordered by the ICC into the Kenyatta case.

The ICC is the world's only permanent war crimes court, after years when the only route to justice for atrocities in countries like Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia was separate tribunals.

Hamstrung from the start by the refusal of the United States, Russia and China to join, the court has since faced criticism for having mainly taken on cases from poorer African nations.