UN appoints South African judge as human rights chief

July 25th, 2008 - 7:03 am ICT by IANS  

New York, July 25 (DPA) South African judge Navanethem Pillay was named High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN’s top position that is tasked with promoting and protecting human rights worldwide. The UN General Assembly will meet Monday to approve the nomination made by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

If Pillay won approval by the 192-nation assembly, she would replace Louise Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice, beginning in August for a four-year term.

UN spokesperson Michelle Montas said Ban named Pillay Thursday following wide-ranging consultations with UN members and non-governmental organisations.

“The secretary general is committed to ensure that human rights remain high on the agenda of the organisation,” Montas said.

“The new high commissioner will preserve the independence of her office and will maintain effective working relations with the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.”

Judge Pillay, 67, has been serving since 2003 as a judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague and prior to that post as president of the UN tribunal for the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994.

She was an attorney and conveyancer on South Africa’s High Court from 1967 to 1995, and acting judge on the same court in 1995.

Her resume showed that she was the first woman to start a law practice in South Africa’s Natal Province in 1967 and served as an attorney in the defense of opponents of apartheid.

“She exposed the practice and effects of torture and solitary confinement on detainees held in the custody of the apartheid police and successfully established the rights of prisoners on Robben Island prison,” the resume said.

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