U.N. rights chief plans to step down: diplomats

Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:42am EST
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By Stephanie Nebehay and Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is expected to announce next week that she will not seek a second term in the post, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

Her current four-year term runs out on June 30.

The High Commissioner's job, created in 1994, is central to the U.N.'s credibility as a protector of international human rights. Its holder has more or less free rein to comment on situations affecting rights around the globe.

Although Arbour is known to have upset several countries, including the United States and some Arab states as well as Israel with statements on rights issues, diplomats said she was unlikely to have taken her decision because of criticism.

Once chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor and a former Canadian Supreme Court judge, she is understood to be planning to tell the U.N. Human Rights Council that she will leave in the summer when it opens a four-week session next Monday, the sources said.

"She has been thinking about it for a long time and she has decided against continuing for another term," said one source close to the U.N., who declined to be identified.

There was no formal comment from the Arbour's office in Geneva. Her spokesman, Rupert Colville, said: "She has not made her intentions known."

NOTIFIED U.N. CHIEF   Continued...

<p>Louise Arbour, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaks during a news conference in Mexico City February 8, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>