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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Navanethem pillay (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)

South African judge Navanethem Pillay has been named the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN chief Ban Ki-moon announced on Thursday.



Hailing Pillay's "outstanding credentials in human rights and justice," UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said Ban expected her to "preserve the independence of her Office and maintain effective working relations with the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council."

The 192-member General Assembly is expected to confirm Pillay's appointment for a four-year term on Monday.

Pillay, who has been with the International Criminal Court since 2003, was picked from a short list that also included prominent Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist Hila Jilani and Argentine human rights lawyer Juan Mendez, according to diplomats and UN officials.

The highly respected South African jurist, who was born in 1941 and is of Tamil descent, previously served as a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In that capacity, she played a key role in landmark decisions defining rape as an institutionalised weapon of war and a crime of genocide.

In 1967, she became the first woman to set up a law practice in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province, where she provided legal defense for opponents to apartheid, and the first woman of color to serve in the High Court in the country.

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 US-educated Pillay is to take over from Louise Arbour, a 61-year-old Canadian jurist, who stepped down at the end of June after completing a four-year mandate.

The position of Human Rights Commissioner has previously been held by Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president, Ecuadorian lawyer and diplomat Jose Ayala Lasso and Brazilian UN diplomat Sergio Vieria de Mello.

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