Applauds pledge to support courageous human rights defenders, protect victims, and challenge abusers
In his first public speech as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein outlined several important commitments, including: to place victims at the center of his work, to speak out when States fail to fulfill their human rights obligations, and to facilitate the courageous work of peaceful human rights defenders.
In doing so, the new High Commissioner has echoed several of the most important recommendations that the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI) has directed to his predecessors during the 20 years that the post has existed. These recommendations and others appear in its 2013 book, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: Conscience for the World. JBI congratulates the High Commissioner on outlining this positive agenda as he begins his tenure and wishes him success in his efforts to make the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a reality for all.
In his remarks, delivered at the opening of the 27th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the new High Commissioner cited lessons drawn from his personal experiences serving in the UN’s peacekeeping force in the Former Yugoslavia, and from his own studies of history and contemporary international life, including his service as Jordan’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York and earlier, as Ambassador to the United States in Washington DC.
High Commissioner Zeid placed signal importance on the need to value courage, and to do more to protect human rights defenders. He contrasted the courage of human rights defenders that fight injustice with nonviolent methods with the “narrow and unyielding” ideology of the “Takfiri” religious extremists that have attacked innocent people throughout the world, particularly in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Kenya, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Syria and Iraq and on 9/11.
Zeid continued: “…should this movement actually try to govern … It would be a harsh, mean-spirited, house of blood … In the Takfiri world, unless your view is identical to theirs – and theirs is extremely narrow and unyielding - you forfeit your right to life. … there is no love of neighbour -- only annihilation to those Muslims, Christians, Jews and others (altogether the rest of humanity) who believe differently to them.”
Zeid expressed his gratitude for the work of those who preceded him in the post of High Commissioner, particularly outgoing High Commissioner Navi Pillay. High Commissioner Zeid also commended the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s “Rights Up Front” initiative and offered his support to efforts to fully integrate human rights into the UN’s broader work globally.
High Commissioner Zeid also provided a sweeping update on the conflicts and issues being addressed by his office. The public remarks were his first after being sworn in by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on Thursday, September 4. Zeid’s term in office will continue through August 2018.