Jordan's Prince Zeid named UN high commissioner for human rights

Long-time advocate of international justice to be first from Muslim or Arab worlds to hold post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 11:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 11:16pm


Prince Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, a veteran diplomat and campaigner for international justice, will become the first UN human-rights chief from the Muslim or Arab worlds following his unanimous election by the UN General Assembly.

The 193-member world body burst into applause on Monday when assembly President John Ashe banged his gavel signifying approval by consensus of the prince's nomination to the top human-rights job by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Zeid, who is Jordan's UN ambassador, praised current High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay of South Africa "for her courageous endeavours" and pledged "to build on her noteworthy achievements".

Zeid's four-year term in the post, which was created by the General Assembly in 1993, will begin on September 1.

"I am going to be the first high commissioner from the Asian continent and from the Muslim and Arab worlds," the prince said.

"This reflects the commitment of the international community towards this important dossier, and this important commitment to push it forward in this continent [Asia] as well as in other regions of the world."

Zeid stressed the independence of the high commissioner's job, which he said "requires wisdom and a high level of coordination and communication with different governments as well as with civil society and all the UN agencies".

The EU's delegate to the UN, Thomas Mayr-Harting, said the prince's "proven track record in the promotion and protection of human rights, the fight against impunity as well as his exceptional diplomatic experience will be an invaluable asset".

Zeid spent five years as an officer in the Jordanian desert police before joining the UN protection force in the former Yugoslavia from 1994 to 1996.

In his long diplomatic career, he has been ambassador to the United Nations twice as well as ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2010.

The prince is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court and has spoken out often against sexual violence.

Zeid was a candidate for secretary general when Ban was chosen for the job.

The Jordanian diplomat who will replace Zeid as Amman's UN ambassador is Dina Kawar, who will become the sixth female to head a delegation on the UN Security Council. Jordan will be on the 15-nation council through the end of next year.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse