Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's not to like about the UN's new rights commissioner?

The world has a new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, a job that comes with built-in controversy. Right at the start, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's choice for the post, Navanethem Pillay, a South African judge now sitting on the International Criminal Court, seems to have caught a lot of people off-guard and provoked some unexpected reactions.

Judge Pillay, 67, is something of a star among international legal experts but was not widely known outside her home country, the UN and the war-crimes tribunals and courts. Beholden to no major human-rights organizations, she was criticized by some in the field for not being "accessible" to that community or not being a more outspoken rights advocate. (She says that was not her role as a judge.) In Washington , where George W. Bush's administration seems to have been prodded into a last-minute scramble to try to derail the appointment, it was discovered that she was — gasp! — a feminist.

However,various reports have indicated that Washington 's concern was that Judge Pillay was the candidate of South African President Thabo Mbeki, and as such, she might share his unwillingness to take a strong position against renegades such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Omar al-Bashir of Sudan . That seems unlikely, given her track record for independence......what is your own opinion on this?
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