Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights joins ISHR Board


ISHR is delighted to announce the appointment of Navanethem Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and one of the world's foremost human rights defenders, to its governing Board.

(Geneva) – The International Service for Human Rights is delighted to announce the appointment of Navanethem Pillay to its governing Board.

Navi Pillay served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014, prior to which she was a judge of the International Criminal Court, judge and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and judge of the South African High Court.

Ms Pillay has a distinguished track record as a human rights defender; acting as defense attorney for anti-apartheid activists and political prisoners, contributing to the drafting of South Africa’s transformative Bill of Rights, and co-founding leading international women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

She was the first South African to obtain a doctorate of law from Harvard University and played a key role for civil society leading to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in 1993.

In her capacity as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Pillay was widely lauded for her work to support human rights defenders and protect civil society space, champion women’s rights and combat discrimination on all grounds, and to pursue accountability for gross human rights violations.

‘I am delighted to join the Board of ISHR, an organisation I have long admired for its work to build the capacity of human rights defenders and protect them from reprisals, and to enhance the accessibility and effectiveness of the UN human rights system,’ said Ms Pillay.

‘ISHR plays a vital role in ensuring that victims of human rights violations and their representatives have a seat and a voice at the highest human rights table and I look forward to assisting them to further develop this work,’ Ms Pillay said.

‘ISHR is privileged to welcome Navi Pillay, one of the world’s foremost human rights lawyers, activists and defenders to its Board,’ said Rosemary McCreery, Chair of the ISHR Board.

‘Navi has worked both as a grassroots human rights defender, advocating for prisoner’s rights and exposing torture in apartheid South Africa, and as the world’s most senior human rights official, frequently briefing the UN Security Council, presidents and heads of state. Her experience and expertise will be invaluable in informing and strengthening ISHR’s work to support defenders and to strengthen laws and mechanisms for their protection at the national, regional and international levels,’ ISHR Director Phil Lynch said.

Ms Pillay’s appointment to the Board is for a period of three years. The Board meets twice per year for two days each time.

In addition to Ms Pillay, ISHR’s Board comprises: Rosemary McCreery (Board Chair and former UN Assistant Secretary-General), Chris Sidoti (Vice-Chair and international human rights expert), Pierre Avanzo (Treasurer and former Partner with McKinsey & Co), Reine Alapini-Gansou (African Commission Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders), Maryam Al-Khawaja (Co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights), Sir Nicolas Bratza (former President of the European Court of Human Rights), Gustavo Gallon (Director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists and UN Independent Expert on Haiti), Hina Jilani (former UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and member of The Elders), Egbert Myjer (former judge of the European Court of Human Rights), Michael Posner (Professor and Co-Director of NYU Center for Business and Human Rights) and Jean-Daniel Vigny (international human rights expert for Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Contact: Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights, on or + 41 76 708 4738.

Photo: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré