Annan to name Canadian Justice Louise Arbour as top UN human rights official

Louise Arbour

20 February 2004 – Louise Arbour, a Canadian Supreme Court Justice and ex-prosecutor of United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, will be named the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights - succeeding Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad last August.

The General Assembly is expected to act shortly on Secretary-General Kofi Annan's intention to appoint Ms. Arbour to a four-year term heading the Geneva-based UN human rights office, according to a UN spokesman.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that if approved, she would be expected to retire from Canada's Supreme Court, where she has been working since 1999, to take up her new assignment.

Ms. Arbour was the Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda from October, 1996 to September, 1999 - a period of intense activity for both courts.

The 57-year old Justice was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1971 and the Bar of Ontario in 1977. She served for 13 years as Associate Professor of Law and later Associate Dean at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.

Fluent in both English and French, she became a member of the bench in December 1987, first as a trial judge on the Supreme Court of Ontario and, in 1990, at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

In April 1995, she was chosen to lead an official investigation into the operation of the correctional service of Canada, based on allegations by female inmates at a women's prison in Kingston (Ontario).

Until her appointment to the bench, she served as vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Throughout her career, Justice Arbour has published extensively, in both English and French, in the fields of criminal procedure, human rights, civil liberties and gender issues.

The General Assembly established the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in December, 1993, with a wide-ranging mandate to oversee the world body's complex and multifaceted activities in that field. The first person to hold the post was José Ayala Lasso, a former Foreign Minister from Ecuador, who was succeeded by Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland. Mr. Vieira de Mello assumed the job on 12 September 2002 before being asked to take what was supposed to be a temporary leave to serve as UN envoy to Iraq, where he was killed in a terrorist bombing that also took the lives of 21 others.

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