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UN approves Austria’s Volker Turk as new human rights chief

UNITED NATION –

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday approved a veteran Austrian diplomat as the global organization’s human rights chief and an advocate for universal rights at a time when the office is under scrutiny. China harshly criticized for accusing Beijing of abusing Muslim minorities.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Volker Turk, his top policy head, late Wednesday, and the 193-member panel quickly approved the appointment by consensus with a bang of the chairman. power, followed by a round of applause.

Turk will replace Michelle Bachelet of Chile as high commissioner for human rights, based in Geneva.

Bachelet’s four-year term ended on 31 August with the last-minute publication of her critically critical report on China’s detention of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in China. the western region of Xinjiang, which she said could constitute a crime against humanity.

China released the report, accusing the UN rights office of fabricating and allowing itself to be used by Western nations.

Tuerk may also face pressure from human rights activists.

Amnesty International’s secretary-general, Agnes Callamard, said he was being appointed “at a time when there are many threats to human rights around the world.”

“Immediately, he must help shape an effective and accountable human rights response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, China’s persecution of millions of Uighurs, and so many protests.” forgotten crisis,” she said in a statement, citing Yemen, Congo and Myanmar as examples. “His agenda should also include strengthening the human rights response to climate change and rising inequality.”

Turk, who holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna, worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees around the world, including in Malaysia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Congo and Kuwait, before taking up positions key position at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva. From 2015 to 2019, he was assistant high commissioner for protection, where he focused on the development of the Global Compact for Refugees.

From 2019 to January 2022, Turk served as assistant secretary general for strategic coordination in Guterres’ office. The head of the UN then appointed him secretary-general for policy in his executive office.

This year, Turk has focused on the follow-up to Guterres’ September 2021 report titled “Our Common Agenda” outlining his vision for a “breakthrough scenario” towards a world-changing world. greener and safer world. He was also tasked with coordinating the entire UN system, including the secretary-general’s “Call to Action for Human Rights”.

Tirana Hassan, interim executive director of Human Rights Watch, responded to the nomination: “The new High Commissioner will cut his work in combating a difficult global human rights environment.”

“Whether it’s facing crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, war crimes in Ukraine and Ethiopia, or racism in the United States, the head of rights’ most effective tool is the strong investigation and a strong voice,” she said, adding that the top priority should be to immediately follow up with Bachelet’s report on the Uyghurs.

Hassan said: “It is essential for millions of people around the world who are being violated every day to be an advocate in their own right who will take on abusive governments big and small. without fear and without hesitation.


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Jordans reporting from Berlin

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