CCJHR Advisory Board Member appointed as new High Commissioner for Human Rights

This blog post was contributed by Dr Siobhan Mullally, Joint Director of the CCJHR

The CCJHR is delighted to welcome the appointment of Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, of South Africa, to succeed Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights — the leading UN human rights official. At a special meeting in New York on 28 July 2008, the UN Secretary-General’s nominee was confirmed by consensus. Ms. Pillay’s four-year term as High Commissioner will start on 1 September 2008.

Judge Pillay is a member of the CCJHR Advisory Board. In February 2008, Judge Pillay delivered the Second Annual Lecture of the CCJHR on the subject of The Role of the International Criminal Court in Promoting Human Rights. The lecture was chaired by Hon Justice Maureen Harding Clark of the High Cour (former judge of the ICC). The lecture can be viewed here.

Biography of Navanethem Pillay
As a member of a non-white minority in apartheid South Africa, and as a front-line, grassroots lawyer who acted as a defense attorney for many anti-apartheid campaigners and trades unionists, Ms. Pillay has direct personal experience of many of the issues that a High Commissioner for Human Rights covers under her mandate. She has also been very active in supporting women’s rights, and was one of the co-founders of the international NGO Equality Now, which campaigns for women’s rights. She has also been involved with a number of other organizations working on issues relating to children, detainees, victims of torture, and of domestic violence as well as a range of other economic, social and cultural rights. More recently, Ms. Pillay has served as a judge on two of the most important international criminal courts in the modern era, spending eight years with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including four years as its President, and then the past five years on the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Both of these courts deal with the extreme end of the human rights spectrum — war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and are at the cutting edge of the development of international law in these areas.

Shortlist for next High Commissioner for Human Rights reported

This blog post was submitted by PhD candidate and Government of Ireland Scholar Pádraig McAuliffe, who is reading for a PhD entitled The Serious Crimes Process of East Timor in the Field of Human Rights Law under the supervision of CCJHR Co-Director, Dr. Siobhán Mullally

Human Rights Tribune reported yesterday that the UN panel created to shortlist candidates to replace Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights has finally submitted the list to UNSG Ban Ki-Moon. On the list are Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, currently a judge at the ICC (International Criminal Court) and a former defence attorney for political prisoners during apartheid; Louis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, the former President of the Human Rights Council and Mexico’s Ambassador in Geneva; Francis Deng of Sudan, currently a UN special advisor for the prevention of genocide and José Ramos Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1996 and current President of East Timor.

Judge Pillay will be familiar to CCJHR students from her address earlier in the year, and is thought to be joint-favourite with de Alba. The other two candidacies are a little more puzzling. Ramos-Horta has only recently recovered from an assassination attempt in July and is currently presiding over a state that has recently pardoned a number of serious human rights violators. Only today he made possibly prejudicial remarks about one Angelita Pires, girlfriend of his would-be assassin Alfredo Reinado, who is under investigation for conspiracy. Francis Deng was Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Sudan (1976-1980) and Sudanese ambassador to the United States, to Scandinavia, and to Canada. His candidacy is an interesting development given Sudan’s near-pariah status in the international community. However, he served during from 1972 to 1983, the only period since Sudan’s independence in 1956 when it has not been at war with people within its territory. He is also a former Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons (1994-2004).