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UN General Assembly confirms South African as new UN human rights chief

[JURIST] The 192-member UN General Assembly Monday unanimously voted to approve [press release] South African judge Navanethem Pillay [ICC profile] as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, replacing departing commissioner Louise Arbour [JURIST report]. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced lat Thursday that he was appointing [JURIST report] Pillay to the post. UN critics and rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], have stressed the need for the new high commissioner to continue Arbour's aggressive stance on human rights issues [HRW press release]. Pillay is scheduled to begin her four-year term on September 1. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.

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]. AP has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.

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