UN approves Austria’s Volker Turk as new Human Rights chief

The United Nations General Assembly has approved the appointment of Austrian diplomat and veteran UN staffer Volker Turk as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to replace former commissioner Michelle Bachelet.

Austrian diplomat and veteran UN staffer Volker Turk, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Austrian diplomat and veteran UN staffer Volker Turk, new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@volker_turk

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had proposed that Turk succeed Bachelet, whose term ended on August 31, and the UN’s 193-member assembly quickly approved the appointment by consensus on Thursday.

Turk said that he was “deeply honoured” to be appointed as the next High Commissioner for Human Rights and that he felt “a deep sense of responsibility” taking over his new role.

“Will give it my all to advance the promises of Universal Declaration of Human Rights for everyone, everywhere”, Turk said in a tweet.

The UN said in a statement that Turk had a long and distinguished career in the advancement of human rights globally.

“Notably the international protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable people — refugees and stateless persons,” the UN said.

Turk had also previously served with the UN refugee agency in Malaysia, Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kuwait.

Most recently working in Guterres’ office as under-secretary-general for policy, Turk now faces the challenge of dealing with the follow-up to a UN rights office report on China’s systematic abuse of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The long-delayed report, which stated that the “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region may constitute crimes against humanity, was published by Bachelet minutes before her departure.

The Uyghur Human Right Project responded to Turk’s appointment by welcoming his new position and also urging that he robustly pursue the possible perpetration of crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.

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