HRW and AI call on Guterres’ nominee for human rights chief to maintain critical stance

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) have called on Volker Turk, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ nominee for High Commissioner for Human Rights, to be prepared to maintain a critical stance on the deterioration of rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the Austrian-born Turk “must be ready and willing to confront even the most powerful governments in a public way,” while not expecting “behind-the-scenes dialogue to bring about change.”

In this way, HRW has expressed that it expects the candidate, who is currently Under-Secretary-General for Policy at the United Nations, to be an “outspoken and principled advocate” for “all victims of abuse around the world.”

“The new High Commissioner will have a lot of work to do to combat a difficult human rights environment around the world,” explained HRW executive director Tirana Hassan, adding that he or she faces crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, in Ukraine and Ethiopia or racism in the United States.

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For its part, AI has asked that the candidate, appointed at “a time of considerable threats to human rights around the world,” respond to numerous challenges: the war in Ukraine, the persecution of the Uighur minority in China, as well as forgotten crises such as those in Yemen, Burma or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“His voice in defense of the victims of human rights violations around the world must be loud and clear. They count on him to stand up to violators, even when they are powerful states,” agreed AI Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

She also indicated that they look forward to working with Turk “to respond to the many existential threats and human rights violations facing the world.” “We also hope that he will respect and support the role of civil society in informing and shaping human rights positions and responses,” he added.

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Turk’s nomination as the new High Commissioner for Human Rights to replace Michelle Bachelet, who stepped down last August, was confirmed by a spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in statements to Europa Press.

Bachelet’s future replacement, who was also ‘number 2’ at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) between 2015 and 2019, will have to be approved by the UN General Assembly and will hold the position for four years with the possibility of renewing her mandate for a fixed term of another four.

Bachelet announced in June that she would not seek a second term, so she left the post she had held for four years last August 31, after publishing a controversial report on the Human Rights of the Uyghur minority in the Chinese region of Xinjiang for which she received pressure, as she denounced.

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