UNITED NATIONS New York(Agencies-19/7/2008)— The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is planning to name a judge from South Africa, Navanethem Pillay, to the key post of high commissioner for human rights, according to a United Nations official briefed on the decision.
The nomination, which requires the approval of the General Assembly, is expected to be announced early next week. Judge Pillay would succeed Louise Arbour, a prosecutor and judge from Canada whose term ended June 30.
Judge Pillay was born in 1941 to a family from the ethnic Tamil minority in South Africa. Her father was a bus driver, and her mother had no formal education, but she rose in legal circles to become the first nonwhite woman to serve as a High Court judge in South Africa.
She has served since 2003 as a judge at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but she became prominent in her previous post as the presiding judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Some human rights advocates said they feared that Judge Pillay would be more low-key than her predecessor, in a job that requires encounters with governments that often resent the human rights commissioner’s intervening in their affairs.
If confirmed, Judge Pillay will also work with the 47-member Human Rights Council, a separate United Nations organization that has been trying to gain more control over the Office of the High Commissioner. The office and the council are based in Geneva. The high commissioner works with the rights council but reports directly to the United Nations secretary general.
By choosing an African, Mr. Ban could sway the agenda of the council, which during Ms. Arbour’s tenure accused the high commissioner’s office of having a “Western” and “white” agenda