TWN Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Dec17/09)
22 December 2017
Third World Network

Zeid not seeking second term as rights chief
Published in SUNS #8602 dated 22 December 2017

Geneva, 21 Dec (Kanaga Raja) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, whose first four-year term of office expires September next year, has reportedly decided not to seek a second term.

Zeid is reported to have emailed a statement to his staff announcing his decision not to seek a second term.

He is quoted as saying in the email: "After reflection, I have decided not to seek a second four-year term."

"To do so, in the current geopolitical context, might involve bending a knee in supplication; muting a statement of advocacy; lessening the independence and integrity of my voice - which is your voice."

A New York Times news report quoted him as saying in the email to his staff: "There are many months ahead of us: months of struggle, perhaps, and even grief - because although the past year has been arduous for many of us, it has been appalling for many of the people we serve."

The report also quoted Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as saying: "The High Commissioner informed the Secretary-General last week of his intention not to seek another term. The High Commissioner has always enjoyed the full support of the Secretary-General."

Apart from being rather critical about several other countries including Myanmar, particularly with respect to the plight of the Rohingya in that country, Zeid has also been critical of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

At a media briefing back in August, the High Commissioner drew attention amongst others to what he said were President Trump's repeated attacks on three of the most well-respected news organisations in the world - The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN - repeatedly referring to these organisations as liars and crooks; and in Arizona, where, according to Zeid, Trump went as far as to refer to journalists as really dishonest people, bad people who don't like the country, in addition to the constant refrain to "fake news", when these news organisations have specific codes of ethics and editorial boards.

The High Commissioner had said to call these news organisations "fake" does tremendous damage. And to refer to individual journalists this way, he said he has to ask the question: Is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists? He believed that it could amount to incitement. (See SUNS #8524 dated 31 August 2017).

As recently as 19 December, Zeid had denounced the recent killing of a wheelchair-bound amputee by Israeli security forces close to the fence between Gaza and Israel.

According to a UN news release, the person in question was Ibrahim Nayef Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a 29-year-old man who reportedly had both his legs amputated following an attack by Israel on Gaza in 2008.

He was among the hundreds of Palestinians who were marching across farm land towards the fence after Friday prayers on 15 December to protest against the decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

He was apparently killed by a bullet to the head when he was approximately 20 metres from the fence.

According to the news release, since President Trump's statement on 6 December vis-a-vis Jerusalem, protests have been held throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in occupied Gaza.

The response by the Israeli security forces has resulted in five people being killed, hundreds injured and large-scale arrests of Palestinians.

The use of live ammunition has resulted in over 220 people being injured in Gaza, including 95 on Friday alone, in addition to tens of others who sustained injuries from tear gas or rubber bullets.

The news release quoted the High Commissioner as saying: "This level of casualties raises serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces was properly calibrated to the threat".

"And these events, including the loss of five irreplaceable human lives, can sadly be traced directly back to the unilateral US announcement on the status of Jerusalem, which breaks international consensus and was dangerously provocative," Zeid added.