Disregarding the recommendation of an advisory group of ambassadors, the Nigerian president of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday nominated Nepali barrister Surya Prasad Subedi to become the next UN envoy for human rights in Cambodia.
In a letter to all 47 members of the newly created council, which began its 10th session in Geneva on Monday, Martin Uhomoibhi, Nigerian Ambassador to Geneva, announced that he had selected Subedi, who was one of four candidates short-listed for the position in January. In their short list, the five-member advisory group had nevertheless expressed “strong support” for Osman El Hajje, a professor of law from Lebanon.
As UN special rapporteur for human rights, Subedi is to replace Kenyan law professor Yash Ghai, who resigned in September as the last of four special representatives of the UN secretary-general, all of whom encountered fierce opposition from the government.
As part of the transition from the former Human Rights Commission, which was abolished in 2006, the Human Rights Council last year changed the mandate for Cambodian envoys from special representative, named by the UN secretary-general, to special rapporteur, appointed by the Council.
After presenting his resignation to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ghai announced to the Council in September that he had not had the support of the international community or the UN system in his fraught dealings with the Cambodian government.
Diplomats and sources at the council said in recent months that in considering Ghai’s replacement, they were well aware of difficulties he had encountered.
As president of the Council, Uhomoibhi had sole discretion to name the final candidate, including the power to choose an individual from outside the list of candidates.
Officials at the Nigerian Embassy in Geneva could not be reached Tuesday, but a UN official at the Council said that all members were consulted prior to the announcement and that no one had expressed opposition to Subedi’s nomination, which is expected to be unanimously approved on March 25.
The Cambodian government had also been told of the Council president’s decision.
“Well before it was made public, they were made privy to this information,” said the UN official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as Subedi’s appointment had not yet been finalized.
Senior Minister Om Yentieng, president of the government’s human rights committee, said he was too busy to talk to a reporter Tuesday. Prime Minister Hun Sen in September, however, pledged that the government would cooperate with Ghai’s replacement.
A secretary at the University of Leeds School of Law, where Subedi has taught since 2004, said Tuesday that Subedi was traveling in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was unavailable for comment.
With a doctorate in law from Oxford University, Subedi has worked as a human rights adviser to the Nepali ministries of justice and foreign affairs and in 2004 was named an Officer of the British Empire.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Monday that he believed Subedi would outperform Ghai, as Subedi is Asian.
“[Subedi] will be better because he is from Asia. He won’t be biased. He knows the culture,” Cheam Yeap said.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)