New U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Brings Experience, Stature

New U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Brings Experience, Stature

(New York, February 20, 2004) - In nominating Louise Arbour today as the next
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan has chosen a skilled jurist and principled advocate, Human Rights
Watch said.

Currently a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Arbour served as the
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia
and Rwanda from 1996 to 1999. Arbour was particularly effective in persuading
the international community to execute arrest warrants for war criminals
indicted by the tribunals.

"Justice Arbour is the embodiment of what is needed for this job," said
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "She combines the
human rights experience, international standing and moral stature needed to
confront the worst and most powerful abusers."

Arbour takes office at a particularly difficult moment for human rights
within the United Nations system. Around the world, human rights are being
assailed in the name of the international campaign against terrorism. The
U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the highest international body devoted to
human rights, has been plagued by a deepening crisis as it now counts some of
world's worst human rights abusers among its members. Meanwhile, the Office
of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is still recovering from the
tragic death of its previous chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in
the August 19 attack on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.

"The U.N. human rights system could not hope for a better leader at a time
that it is under unprecedented attack," said Roth.

Human Rights Watch called on Arbour to make these challenges to human rights
a first priority during her tenure. In particular, she should press for the
creation of an independent mechanism-such as a U.N. special rapporteur- to
monitor how governments are using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to
undermine human rights worldwide.