Ban Ki-moon pays tribute to human rights chief, following exit announcement

Human Rights High Commissioner Louise Arbour and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

7 March 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “great regret” at the decision of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to step down at the end of her first four-year term, which she confirmed today in Geneva.

“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,” Mr. Ban said, following the announcement Ms. Arbour made at the Human Rights Council – the UN body inaugurated under her tenure, which ends in June.

Mr. Ban said that she never hesitated to incur the criticism of States or other parties by highlighting the victims of abuses or pointing out the inadequacies of national legal systems, and she consistently represented the highest ideals of the Organization.

“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,” he said.

Ms. Arbour, a Canadian Supreme Court Justice and ex-prosecutor of UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, assumed the post of High Commissioner in 2004, after her predecessor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, was killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad.

Along with announcing her departure, Ms. Arbour today presented her final annual report to the Council, highlighting the distressing human rights implications of renewed conflict in West Darfur and Sri Lanka.

In regard to the Council itself, she said the report stressed the need to support the participation of the least-developed countries in the first-ever Universal Periodic Review, which will assess the rights situation in all UN Member States.

She promised to share reflections on her tenure as High Commissioner at the Council's next session in June.

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