The UN appealed to Cambodian authorities Wednesday to reconsider appointing tribunal judge You Bunleng to head the national Court of Appeals.
The world body "invited the Cambodian authorities to consider keeping Judge You Bunleng in his current function" and was awaiting a reply, UN tribunal spokesman Peter Foster said in a statement Wednesday.
The UN is concerned the appointment of the judge, who in the tribunal process is responsible for determining which suspects see trial, could undermine the tribunal.
Cambodian authorities, however, say he is needed to help shore up the judiciary; he is replacing judge Ly Vuochleng, who was sacked earlier this month over bribery allegations.
You Bunleng declined comment Wednesday.
However, both national and international judges have dual roles in different positions, said Cambodian tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath.
"Both sides are studying and considering the work showing that justice will prevail in a short time and no proceedings will be interrupted," he said. "One thing we can specify is that both Cambodia and the UN have the same will, that is they want the procedure to go forward, and consider the interests of the victims as important."
Keeping You Bunleng in two positions could work, but the Khmer Rouge trials should remain a priority, a tribunal expert said.
"The solution may be that both sides should talk and find a solution now, and prepare something to guarantee there will be no delay," Cambodia Justice Initiative observer Long Panhavuth said. "The best thing is for Mr. You Bunleng to have two positions, but he must give his priority and most of the time of his work for the Khmer Rouge tribunal."