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Acting UN Human Rights Commissioner Urges Election of Permanent Replacement Soon - 2003-09-04


The U.N. Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights says a new person must be quickly chosen to replace former Human Rights Chief Sergio Vieira de Mello, to ensure human rights efforts around the world continue. Mr. de Mello was one of 22 people slain in the suicide truck bombing in Baghdad August 19.

Acting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan says there has to be a strong voice to speak out for victims of human rights abuse.

Mr. Ramcharan was chosen to stand-in for his boss, Sergio Vieira de Mello, when he was sent to Baghdad in June on a four-month special assignment.

During the short period in which he has served as Acting High Commissioner, Mr. Ramcharan says he has seen that his decisions do not carry the same authority as decisions of a full, duly-appointed High Commissioner.

"I think that a High Commissioner endorsed by the General Assembly must be inherently stronger than an Acting Commissioner," he said. "And that therefore it would be in the interest of the institution that there be a High Commissioner appointed by the General Assembly as soon as possible."

Mr. Ramcharan, a legal expert from Guyana, has worked for the United Nations for 30 years.

There are no obvious candidates for the position of High Commissioner. But, Mr. Ramcharan notes that as an international civil servant, he cannot and will not put himself forward as a candidate for the job.

On a related matter, Mr. Ramcharan says it is more important now than ever before to make human rights a central part of Iraq's rehabilitation.

He says despite of the bombing in Baghdad, his office is committed to helping the Iraqi people create a constitution based on human rights, to modernize the country's system of law, and to protect the rights of women and members of minority groups.

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