From now on, the lawyer heads the UN body. So far, she has particularly campaigned for people with disabilities and the rights of small island states.
BERLIN taz | The spring meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which started on Monday and will only take place online due to the pandemic, will be chaired for the first time by its new chairman Nazhat Shameem Khan from Fiji. The lawyer, born in 1960, was previously the UN ambassador to the Pacific island nation and came to her new post in January through an extraordinary battle vote.
Because the Asia-Pacific group of countries consisting of 13 countries, which was the turn of the next three-year appointment to the management post, could not come to an agreement in advance. Because China, Russia and Saudi Arabia had reservations about the Khan, who was trained as a lawyer in Great Britain, they motivated the governments of Bahrain and Uzbekistan to put up their own candidates. With the support of Western and pro-Western countries, Khan finally prevailed in the Council’s first secret vote in its 15-year history. She got 29 of the 47 votes.
Khan, who has a father from Pakistan and a mother from Fiji and whose sister heads the human rights commission in her country, admitted in advance that the different weighting of different human rights among the 47 council members would come to light. For example, some countries weight the right to water or to education higher than the right to civil or political rights such as freedom of expression. However, she believes that all rights must go hand in hand.
As is well known, human rights are highly political and a field of ideological and hegemonic trench warfare. For example, the Human Rights Council is currently dealing with the abuse of the corona pandemic to restrict freedom of expression, the fair distribution of vaccines, the military coup in Myanmar, the arrest of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia. The US is taking part again for the first time after Washington turned its back on the body under the Trump administration in 2018.
Khan is considered pro-western
Khan, who was often the first woman to achieve top positions such as attorney general or judge at the Supreme Court in the judiciary of her homeland, which is divided between residents of Melanesian and Indian descent, is indeed considered to be more pro-Western.
But critics also see them as close to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s political camp. As military chief, he had put up twice. In 2000 to “ward off” a coup by a dubious businessman and the second time in 2006 because of corruption in the previous government. Khan made a career jump in 2006, which later fell on her feet. Bainimarama was confirmed in elections in 2007.
Internationally, Khan has so far campaigned heavily for the rights of people with disabilities and for the small island states.