Four candidates were named Tuesday as possible successors for International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo when his nine-year term ends next year.
Moreno-Ocampo's current deputy, Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, is considered by many observers to be the front-runner. Her candidacy is supported by the African Union, which has often voiced criticism of Moreno-Ocampo for only opening investigations in African nations.
The short list also features Andrew Cayley, a co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia who comes from Britain; Tanzania's Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman; and Robert Petit, a counsel at the crimes against humanity and war crimes section of Canada's Justice Department.
A search committee set up by the court's member states drew up an initial list of 52 candidates who applied or were recommended for the high-profile job. The committee interviewed eight before whittling the list down to four.
The committee did not express a preference for any one candidate, saying in its report that all have "the professional experience and expertise, and the necessary personal qualities, to perform the role of the next ICC prosecutor to the highest standard."
All four have extensive experience in international prosecutions.
Before joining the Khmer Rouge court, Cayley was a senior prosecuting counsel at the ICC, a defense attorney at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, and a prosecutor at the Yugoslav court.
Othman has held several senior positions in the Tanzanian legal system, and was chief of prosecutions at the Rwanda war crimes tribunal and prosecutor general with the U.N. transitional administration in East Timor.
Petit also was a senior prosecuting trial attorney at the Sierra Leone court, a legal officer at the Rwanda tribunal and a legal adviser to the U.N. mission in Kosovo.
Bensouda is a former Gambian justice minister who also served as a senior legal adviser and trial attorney at the Rwanda tribunal.
"It is a very strong short list," said Param-Preet Singh, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "You have four candidates, each of whom has experience in international tribunals, so they understand how the bureaucracy works, they understand how justice figures on the international stage."
Moreno-Ocampo, the court's first chief prosecutor, has opened investigations in seven countries _ all of them in Africa _ but has yet to reach a conviction.
Among senior African leaders indicted by Moreno-Ocampo are Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charged with genocide for allegedly masterminding abuses in his country's Darfur region, and Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's longtime leader whose indictment on charges of crimes against humanity is expected to be withdrawn after he was shot and killed last week after rebel fighters captured him near his home town of Sirte.
Representatives from the 119 countries that are members of the court will now attempt to reach consensus behind a single candidate. If that fails, the member states will hold a vote at a meeting in December.