Joachim Rücker, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, has been chosen to lead the UN Human Rights Council. Rücker is the first German to be elected to this post.
Thomas Rücker will take the reins as president of the UN Human Rights Council in 2015. The economist by training had served as Germany's envoy to the United Nations until his appointment to the new post at UNHRC.
Speaking to the German press agency DPA, Rücker said that the UNHRC raised hopes for human rights when the body was first created in 2006. However, the status of the rights of human beings today, leaves much to be desired.
Rücker said he would like to strengthen the role of the UNHRC. "I want to advocate for a stronger participation by civil society in the work of the body and to promote a culture in which there is neither place for intimidation nor threats against the civil society."
The international rights campaigner also spoke about wartime abuses in Syria, saying that the UN had transferred such cases to the International Court of Justice. In very serious cases of abuse, the UNHRC in Geneva has been successful in collecting evidence to make offenders accountable for rights violations, Rücker told DPA.
Rights violations in Gaza
The German diplomat also spoke about the controversial "agenda item 7" of the UNHRC regarding Israel's rights violations during this summer's conflict in Gaza, in which more than 2,000 people were killed. The "agenda item 7" states that the UNHRC must discuss Israel's abuses in Gaza every time it convenes. Israel opposes the decision, arguing that it is the only country to be subjected to the rule.
In October, the EU and several countries decided to walk out of UNHRC sessions that singled out Israel as a rights violator, angering Arab nations that wanted to highlight the state of people living in the Gaza Strip.
Rücker confessed that he wouldn't be able to change the structure of the UNHRC, but that he would like to ensure that no party "abuses the council's mandate."
Rücker, the mayor of the south German town Sindelfingen until 2014, also served in Germany's Foreign Ministry and was appointed special envoy of the UN secretary-general and chief of the UN's interim mission in Kosovo.
mg/mkg (epd, dpa)