The UN secretary-general has given the Supreme Council of the Magistracy a list of potential replacements for outgoing Khmer Rouge prosecutor Robert Petit, the Khmer Rouge tribunal announced on Wednesday.
Among the two nominees is British prosecutor Andrew Cayley, who is currently defending former Liberian President and crimes against humanity suspect Charles Taylor at a trial specially convened at The Hague, according to sources familiar with the nominations.
Before joining the Taylor defense, Mr Cayley, a former legal officer in the British army, was senior prosecuting counsel at the International Criminal Court and at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Mr Petit’s resignation, which he announced in June and which had been privately communicated to the UN as early as January, is effective in 12 days.
Yuko Maeda, the tribunal’s newly appointed UN spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the list of nominees has been forwarded to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy but that further details were not available.
Created in 1999 to guarantee judicial independence, the nine-member Supreme Council is legally required to select both a prosecutor and a substitute, or reserve, prosecutor from a list of no fewer than two candidates.
Though formally the appointments are to be made by the council, in practice the UN has selected only one candidate per position, leaving the council with little leeway in approving UN nominations.
According to Ms Maeda, the status of Paul Coffey, who was appointed as Mr Petit’s reserve in 2006, is currently unclear and is being clarified with UN headquarters in New York.
Nominations by the UN secretary-general are the result of a confidential process that can be the subject of intense lobbying by member states, but are performed in consultation with the UN Office of Legal Affairs.
In November, shortly before informing the UN of his intention to resign, Mr Petit began the process of resolving a disagreement with Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang over whether to pursue additional Khmer Rouge suspects. Mr Petit was seeking to prosecute six additional regime-era suspects, one of whom has since died, but Ms Leang has rejected the proposal, stating that the five Khmer Rouge suspects currently in custody at the tribunal are enough.
For months, the court has experienced episodic bouts of speculation as to how soon the five-judge Pre-Trial Chamber will decide the nine-month-old matter of further prosecutions and whether the bench’s two foreign and three Cambodian judges can achieve unanimity over a highly politicized question.
If the Pre-Trial Chamber decides not to prevent the additional prosecutions, Mr Petit’s successor will inherit an office required to cooperate in a matter that has already exposed internal divisions.