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New UN human rights commissioner appointed

[JURIST] UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Thursday that he has appointed South African judge Navanethem Pillay [ICC profile] as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacing departing commissioner Louise Arbour [JURIST report]. Pillay, a former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and a current appeals chamber judge on the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official websites], began her legal career in 1967 when she became the first woman to open a law practice in the Natal province of South Africa. Initially known for her work defending anti-apartheid activists, she successfully fought to guarantee the legal representation rights of South African political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela [Nobel Prize profile]. In 1995, she became the first woman of Southeast-Asian descent appointed to the South African Supreme Court [official website]. The appointment will now go to the 192-member General Assembly, which will meet on Monday, for approval. AFP has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

In March, Arbour said she would not seek a second term [press release; JURIST report] when her commission ended on June 30. Arbour was appointed [JURIST report] to her position in 2004 after five years as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She succeeded Sergio Vieira de Mello [BBC obituary], who was killed in a 2003 suicide bomb attack on UN offices in Baghdad. Arbour served as chief war crimes prosecutor for the UN in the late 1990s.

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