New HR Commissioner speaks; farewell from me!

Thanks to the UN News Center

And a quick word to say thank you for all your interest, and I wish Ms Pillay a successful and productive tenure.

I feel we did, at the least, help open this process to increased public scrutiny, which is a fine objective. An informed populace is the guardian of democracy.



New UN human rights chief speaks of personal understanding of discrimination

Navanethem Pillay

29 July 2008 – The newly appointed United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says she comes to her work with a personal understanding of human rights violations, based on her experience of living in South Africa during the apartheid regime when non-whites such as herself suffered from institutionalized discrimination.“I think I come with a real understanding of what it’s like to have your human rights violated and to have it violated for a very long time without any justice in sight, and the apartheid struggle taught that,” Navanethem Pillay said today in an interview with UN Radio.

Ms. Pillay, who is due to take up her post in Geneva on 1 September, said that leadership in her home country had been critical in bringing about dramatic change for the better. She went on to cite the establishment of the Human Rights Council, where she said Member States now subscribe to the notion of accountability, monitoring and peer reviews, as an example of dramatic change that had taken place globally in the human rights field. Noting that her predecessor Louise Arbour had established human rights offices in 50 countries, Ms. Pillay said she wanted to take that work forward.

“I see these as progressive trends which would advance the work of the High Commissioner in protecting human rights everywhere.”

She said that nations now took human rights with the seriousness that they deserved, drawing on her experience of serving as a Judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) since 2003, and before that as both Judge and President on the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which she joined in 1995.

“My experience as an international judge is where political leadership has been brought to account for complicity in some very grave international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I was on the panel of judges that sentenced the Prime Minister of Rwanda to life imprisonment for the offense of genocide,” she noted.

“I subscribe to this new system of international criminal justice system which we have only very recently, for the past fifteen years, as a strong signal that impunity will be ended and that anyone, whether a head of state or a militia leader, will be held accountable and punished.”

The High Commissioner acknowledged that she would have to operate in a different manner in her new post from her previous work for criminal tribunals, even though she said there were close links between the two activities.

“The criminal trials have the power to punish, the High Commissioner has to find various approaches of persuasion, of strong talk, or to develop civil society organizations to meet this source of the violations,” she said.


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Pillay nomination official, despite US opposition

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday named South African judge Navanethem Pillay as the world body’s new human rights chief, succeeding outspoken Canadian Louise Arbour, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

Pillay is currently a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. U.N. diplomats and officials had said the United States had opposed to her appointment due to her positions on abortion and other issues but had ultimately decided not to block her.

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LA Times on Pillay

some nice bio detail here

The daughter of a Tamil bus driver in Durban, she experienced human rights violations firsthand. Pillay earned a law degree at Harvard, but for 28 years during apartheid, she was not allowed to set foot in a judge’s chambers as a lawyer because of her South Asian origins. In 1995 she became the first woman of color to become a judge on the High Court.

Pillay, born in 1941, also served as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda prosecuting crimes related to that nation’s genocide. She presided over landmark cases in international law that established rape as a war crime, convicted a former head of state for atrocities committed during his rule and prosecuted media for inciting genocide. She has served for five years on the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

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New York Times on Pillay

U.N. May Name Rights Chief on Friday


Published: July 19, 2008

LONDON — United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is considering appointing a South African lawyer, Navanethem Pillay, to succeed Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to a diplomat briefed on the appointment. An announcement could be made Friday.

Ms. Pillay, born into an ethnic Tamil minority family in apartheid South Africa, was the first nonwhite woman to become a High Court judge in 1995 following South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

The office of the High Commissioner for Human Right, offered no comment on her appointment and the U.N. did not confirm it.

Ms. Arbour announced earlier this year that she would retire from the post when her term expired on June 30.

Ms. Pillay is well-known figure in international human rights jurisprudence. She served in the 1990s on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and was its president for four years. She is now a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Ms. Pillay’s name appeared on a short list along with those of Hina Jilani of Pakistan and Juan Méndez of Argentina, according to the diplomat, who declined to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Under U.N. rules, her appointment requires the approval of the General Assembly.

Her appointment was opposed by the United States which has been angered by South African diplomatic moves to thwart the imposition of sanctions on President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, according to human rights activists.

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Reuters confirms Pillay

S.African to replace UN rights chief – diplomats

Thu 17 Jul 2008, 21:25 GMT

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 (Reuters) – The U.N. secretary-general plans to name South African judge Navanethem Pillay as the world body’s next human rights chief, succeeding the outspoken Louise Arbour, diplomats said on Thursday.

Pillay is now a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. As a lawyer in South Africa, she defended anti-apartheid activists and championed the right of Nelson Mandela and other dissidents to legal assistance.

Several diplomats, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity because the appointment is not yet official, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to announce Pillay’s appointment as early as Friday.

Arbour, a Canadian, said in March she would not seek a second four-year term as the Geneva-based U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights after her term expired on June 30.

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Pillay gets the job – sources

Well informed sources, which have proved reliable in the past, suggest Judge Pillay has got the job.

The announcement will not be made for a few days however.

Watch this space.

In the meantime, this from VOA.

Extra: there has been some rumours over recent days that the US ambassador Zalmay Khalizad was not in favour of this appointment, including due to concerns about her nationality. I can’t confirm this, but it bears some scrutiny.

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Shortlist of three confirmed

The SG is informing diplomats that there is a shortlist of three people –

Navanethem Pillay

Hina Jiliani

Juan Mendez

Pillay is still believed to be the favourite of the SG’s team; Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador, is said to be pushing for his own candidate – Sima Samar, from Afghanistan.

Is this official sharing of the names the long-promised transparency? Appointment to be announced next week.

This is a letter on the issue from the Turkish mission to the UN

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