Member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will begin voting on Friday to select a new prosecutor for a nine-year term after failing to find a consensus candidate.
A secret ballot will be held to pick one of four candidates remaining out of an initial field of 14 to replace lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who leaves on June 15, reports Reuters.
Intense political jostling for the top job came amid heightened scrutiny of the prosecutor’s office.
Former US President Donald Trump’s adminstration imposed sanctions last year on court staff including Bensouda over investigations by her office into possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, including by American troops. The United States is not a member of the court.
Last week the court said it has jurisdiction over war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories, which could lead to an inquiry strongly opposed by non-ICC member Israel and the United States.
One of the first decisions by a new prosecutor could be whether to press ahead with a full investigation into the Palestinian territories, where Bensouda said there is a reasonable basis to conclude war crimes may have been committed by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.
Observers say Britain’s Karim Khan, who now heads a United Nations team investigating Islamic State crimes in Iraq, is a favorite to win the lead prosecutor job after leading in negotiations between members following a move to expand the list of final candidates in November.
Khan is closely followed by Irish lawyer Fergal Gaynor. The two other remaining candidates are Spanish prosecutor Carlos Castresana and late entrant Francesco Lo Voi, an Italian prosecutor.
A candidate must gain at least 62 out of 123 voting countries to win.
The election process has been the focus of lobbying by states and non-governmental organisations and additional rounds of voting may be required.
A first round is expected Friday when a session of the court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, resumes in New York at 10:00 am.