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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