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UN Confirms S. African Judge as Human Rights Chief


The United Nations General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of South African judge Navanethem Pillay as the new U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Pillay currently serves as a judge at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. She will replace Canadian Louise Arbour, who served since 2004.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is "gratified" by the General Assembly's endorsement. Mr. Ban, who nominated Pillay to the post, says he is committed to ensuring that human rights remain high on the United Nations' agenda.

Pillay is expected to begin her term on September 1.

The South African judge was born in 1941 and is of Tamil descent. In 1967, Pillay became the first woman of color to set up a law practice in South Africa's Natal Province. She later became the country's first woman of color to serve on the country's High Court.

She has presided over cases involving international criminal law, humanitarian law and human rights law, especially crimes involving sexual violence in conflicts.

Louise Arbour stepped down June 30 after serving four years for the Geneva-based U.N. body.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.