World News

Field of candidates widens in heated race for top ICC prosecutor job

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A British lawyer looking into alleged atrocities by Islamic State and a Canadian who helped bring to justice perpetrators of Cambodia’s genocide are among five new candidates to lead the International Criminal Court.

A process to fill the most important post in the field of international criminal justice has been deadlocked for several months.

The five new names were added to an earlier shortlist of four. Some countries had complained that the original four, chosen through a process that emphasised consensus, did not include enough figures with the international profile required for the job.

The court’s 123 member countries are due to meet in New York on Dec. 7 to 13, when they are meant to pick a successor for Gambia’s Fatou Bensouda, whose term as chief prosecutor expires in June.

The position gained additional international attention this year when the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Bensouda, under a law normally used to target terrorists and drug dealers.

The Trump administration rejects the court and denounced Bensouda for looking into actions of American troops in Afghanistan. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a less confrontational stance, although Washington is unlikely to lift its objections to the Afghanistan investigation.

The new candidates include Britian’s Karim Khan, who now heads a United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq, and Robert Petit, a former prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia.

Notably absent is the candidate seen as having the highest profile, the prosecutor in charge of the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Belgian Serge Brammertz, who had previously expressed an interest.

Widening the pool of candidates could delay the elections because ICC member states may want more than the two remaining weeks before the New York meeting to make a choice.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Peter Graff