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Navanethem Pillay confirmed as new High Commissioner for Human Rights

The United Nations General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of Navanethem (Navi) Pillay, of South Africa, to succeed Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights -- the leading UN human rights official. At a special meeting in New York on 28 July 2008, the Secretary-General's nominee was confirmed by consensus. Ms. Pillay's four-year term will start on 1 September 2008.

Navanethem Pillay New High Commissioner for Human RightsAs a member of a non-white minority in apartheid South Africa, and as a front-line, grassroots lawyer who acted as a defense attorney for many anti-apartheid campaigners and trades unionists, Ms. Pillay has direct personal experience of many of the issues that a High Commissioner for Human Rights covers under her mandate. She has also been very active in supporting women's rights, and was one of the co-founders of the international NGO Equality Now, which campaigns for women's rights. She has also been involved with a number of other organizations working on issues relating to children, detainees, victims of torture, and of domestic violence as well as a range of other economic, social and cultural rights.

More recently, Ms. Pillay has served as a judge on two of the most important international criminal courts in the modern era, spending eight years with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including four years as its President, and then the past five years on the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Both of these courts deal with the extreme end of the human rights spectrum -- war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and are at the cutting edge of the development of international law in these areas.

Judge Pillay will be the fifth UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be appointed since the office was founded 15 years ago. She will head an organization that now has just under 1,000 staff working in 50 countries with a total annual budget of some US$ 150 million.

Biography

Born: 1941
Place of Birth and Nationality: South Africa
Education: University of Natal (BA & LLB); Harvard University (Masters and Doctorate in human rights and international law )

Career

2003-2008 -- Appeals Division Judge, International Criminal Court in the Hague
1999-2003 -- President, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
1995-1999 -- Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda 1995 -- Acting Judge, Supreme Court of South Africa
1995 -- Vice-President, University of Durban Westville
1985 -- Co-founded international women's rights group Equality Now
1980 -- Lecturer, University of KwaZulu-Natal
1967-1995 – Attorney and Conveyancer, High Court of South Africa
1967 -- First woman to start a law practice in Natal Province, South Africa. Defense attorney for many anti-apartheid activists.