Austria’s Volker Turk appointed UN human rights chief


GENEVA — UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed on Thursday, Volker Turk of Austria as the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, following approval by the General Assembly.  

Guterres proposed that Turk succeed Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, whose term ended on Aug. 31, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Turk currently works in Guterres’ office as under secretary-general for policy. Türk also served UNHCR around the world, including as Representative in Malaysia; Assistant Chief of Mission in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively; and Regional Protection Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and in Kuwait. 

He holds a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Linz, Austria. 

“Mr. Turk has devoted his long and distinguished career to advancing universal human rights, notably the international protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees and stateless persons,” the UN chief said in a statement.

Turk’s most immediate challenge will be grappling with the follow-up to a report on China’s Xinjiang region published by his predecessor minutes before her departure.

The report found that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region may constitute crimes against humanity. read more

China vigorously denies any abuses in Xinjiang.

“It is China’s hope that Turk will lead the office in strictly abiding by the principles of objectivity, impartiality … and non-politicization,” China’s Deputy UN Ambassador Dai Bing told the General Assembly.

Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations Lisa Carty said Turk “must serve as an independent, impartial, and unwavering voice for human rights issues around the world.”

“The high commissioner must be willing to call out human rights violations and abuses wherever they occur,” she said.

The high commissioner plays a critical role in speaking out against the backsliding of freedoms at a time when autocracies are gaining influence at the expense of democracy. — Agencies

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