Category Archives: Candidate News

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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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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Israel against Alfonso de Alba?

from Haaretz

Israel lobbies UN as Ban mulls appointment of new human rights chief

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

Officials in Jerusalem are anxiously anticipating the United Nations’ upcoming appointment of a new human rights commissioner to replace Louise Arbour, the Canadian jurist and former Supreme Court judge who stepped down earlier this week.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon interviews prospective candidates, Israeli officials are attempting to exert their influence in the hopes the world body taps a figure whom Jerusalem perceives as non-hostile.

Two candidates in particular are worrisome from Israel’s standpoint – Luis Alfonso de Alba, a Mexican diplomat who has expressed anti-Israel views in years past; and the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who aroused Jerusalem’s ire after paying an official visit to Iran earlier this year.

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Ramos Horta “says no”

This from Reuters and this from the IHT confirms it.

What a curious saga indeed. Did Mr Ramos Horta get ahead of himself, only to be slapped down by SG Ban yesterday? Was he even in the running to begin with? Some insiders had suggested that by this stage he was not a top contender.

Either way, one fears what this saga will do for others’ willingness to talk about their potential candidacies, and the UN’s readiness to embrace a high level figure for this post. The trouble with senior world-renowned people is they have a tendency to speak without consulting first.

East Timor President says no to U.N. job

Fri 27 Jun 2008, 7:12 GMT

By Tito Belo

DILI (Reuters) – East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said on Friday he would not pursue the job of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, confirming earlier media reports.

“An early departure from my current responsibility would result in early elections and this would be an unfair burden on a people who went to the polls three times in 2007,” he told a news conference in Dili.

“I have reflected on the challenges, complexity and honour of serving the international community … I have consulted with my East Timor colleagues and friends. I have heard the voices of many humble East Timorese. I have also consulted many friends whose opinion I cherish,” he said.

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Ban K-M on Ramos Horta: “never spoken to anybody to offer nomination”

From today’s press encounter:

“It may take a few more days before I will be able to submit the final candidate to the General Assembly for confirmation. At this time, I would like to make it quite clear that I have never spoken to anybody to offer my nomination.”

Q: Jose Ramos Horta, the President of East Timor, claimed that you have offered him the post of High Commissioner for Human Rights. Can you confirm? Because he said he is going to announce it tomorrow, Friday, in East Timor. Can you confirm that you have offered him the post, and under what criteria have you applied to select him?

Ban Ki-moon, UNSG: As you know, the current High Commissioner, Ms. Louise Arbour, is going to retire as of the end of this month, and my senior advisers and myself have been actively going through a selection process. There were a number of candidates, very qualified candidates, and we are now in the process of narrowing down to a final shortlist of the candidates. In fact, I have interviewed some of them. I am still in the process. It may take a few more days before I will be able to submit the final candidate to the
General Assembly for confirmation.

At this time, I would like to make it quite clear that I have never spoken to anybody to offer my nomination.

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