East Timor president declines ‘offer’ to succeed Arbour as UN rights chief

East Timor president declines ‘offer’ to succeed Arbour as UN rights chief

[JURIST] East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] Friday declined what he described as an offer to become the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, despite having told parliament last week [AP report] that he had accepted the position. Ramos-Horta said he changed his mind because resigning from the presidency would force new elections to be held within 90 days, something he feared could destabilize the newly-formed country. The UN has made no official statement on the matter. Ramos-Horta, who won the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize [Nobel Prize website], had been considered a leading candidate for the position since surviving an assassination attempt [JURIST report] in February. Current UNHCHR Louise Arbour [official profile; JURIST news archive] will be formally stepping down next week. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Ramos-Horta is only the second president of East Timor and previously served as the country's first foreign minister. He was wounded in a February assassination attempt by anti-government rebels. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed during the attacks, while Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao [BBC profile] escaped unharmed. The National Parliament of East Timor [official website] subsequently declared a national state of emergency [AP report], prohibiting public gatherings and establishing a curfew. The parliament initially established the state of emergency for one month at the end of February, but extended it [JURIST reports] in late March, saying some parts of the country remained unstable following the assassination attempts.