[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] said Friday that she will not seek a second term [press release; recorded video] when her commission ends on June 30. Arbour's decision not to seek a second term [JURIST report] was made public earlier this week, but Friday's comments during her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] mark Arbour's official announcement. While serving as the UN's top human rights official, the Canadian-born Arbour has frequently spoken out against rights abuses by world powers, including the United States in the context of the "war on terror." Most recently, she said the US practice of waterboarding, not currently used by intelligence officials, is "clearly torture" under international definitions of the term, and criticized the Bush administration [JURIST report] for defending its past use of the interrogation technique. She has also pressed for greater respect for human rights in Darfur and the Middle East. AP has more.
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, 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.
2:43 PM ET – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement [text] Friday expressing regret at Arbour's decision not to seek a second term. Ban said:
She has fulfilled her four-year mandate with immense dedication, and I have been most impressed by her extraordinary courage, energy and integrity in speaking out forcefully on human rights, which is among the UN's most important mandates. She has taken on the challenge of this difficult assignment in precisely the way that I would have expected. She has never hesitated to incur the criticism of States or other entities by highlighting the victims of abuses, and the inadequacies of legal systems everywhere. She has consistently represented the highest ideals of the [United] Nations, and the many tributes being paid to her today around the world are richly deserved.
Her legacy will be one of a strengthened and more wide-ranging United Nations human rights system, a stronger focus on justice and accountability, reformed protection mechanisms, and a more balanced approach to the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The UN News Centre has more.