Unanimously confirmed last month as the new UN human rights chief, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein has a strong track record on accountability for grave crimes.
An avid advocate in the fight against impunity and a chief architect of the ICC, Prince Zeid’s selection as UN high commissioner for human rights can only bolster the advance of international justice.
The 50-year-old Jordanian UN representative takes over from outgoing high commissioner Navi Pillay, whose support for international justice and the ICC during her time in office has also been laudable.
Prince Zeid is also a member of our very own Advisory Board—a global leadership group that supports international justice and provides strategic guidance to the Coalition.
A key figure in the establishment of the ICC
After the Rome Statute entered into force in 2002 until 2005, Prince Zeid served as the first president of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP)—a governing body that provides oversight to the Court, considers and votes on amendments to the Statute, and decides the ICC’s budget, among other functions.
Under his leadership, the Court’s membership grew significantly and began its judicial proceedings.
Prince Zeid’s has continued to play an important role in the Rome Statute system. He served as chairman of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala, Uganda in 2010.
The preparatory work done by the Working Group led to the adoption of the crime of aggression by states parties at the Review Conference.
ICC jurisdiction over the crime of aggression will only come into effect when the amendment is ratified by at least 30 states parties and can only be activated by an ASP vote taken no earlier than 1 January 2017. To date, 14 states have done so.
A career tackling human rights violations
Prince Zeid’s career also includes work for the UN force in the former Yugoslavia, where he helped ensure the creation of a report documenting the causes of the genocide in Srebrenica.
Throughout his career, he has fought against the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence, leading investigations into such crimes allegedly committed by UN peacekeepers and insisting on a zero-tolerance policy for such offenses.
As Jordan’s representative at the UN, Prince Zeid has a legacy of working to unveil widespread human rights violations in places and steering countries away from victor’s justice.
Under his leadership, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will undoubtedly be well placed to continue to play a leading role in strengthening respect for human rights.
Many Coalition members in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) agree that Prince Zeid’s appointment as the first high commissioner from the region is a sign of the international community’s commitment to the defense of human rights in the Arab world.
With tensions escalating in many parts of the MENA region, he faces tough challenges in addressing injustice and human rights violations.
We wish Prince Zeid success as he takes up his new position in September and look forward to working with his office on activities across the MENA region and beyond.
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