THE new UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, Peter Leu-precht,
may be expected to make his first visit to the country in October or November.
Almost eight months after former Special Representative Thomas Hammarberg left office,
Leuprecht was appointed as his replacement on August 18.
The United Nations had stalled Leuprecht's appointment to avoid interference with
the ongoing negotiations between the UN and the Cambodian Government on setting up
a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. The delay caused widespread concern
among human rights groups that the Special Representative was in danger of being
However, the choice of Leu-precht has brought optimism to the human rights community.
Leuprecht, a 63-year-old Austrian-born lawyer, has worked intensively with human
rights throughout his career.
For years he was attached to the Council of Europe, an organization of more than
40 European countries long regarded as a strong upholder of human rights and democratic
values. In 1993, Leuprecht became the Deputy Secretary-General of the council.
Four years later he resigned from the post in protest against what he called a dilution
of the council's values and principles. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989,
the organization began admitting former Central and East European communist countries,
which according to Leuprecht did not live up to the standards usually promoted by
In 1996, the council admitted Russia, which then was staging a bloody war in Chechnya.
Later, Croatia became a member despite well-known oppression of the press, opposition
movements and ethnic Serbs.
After his resignation, Leuprecht openly criticized the council, saying to an Alsatian
newspaper that the council officials' references to democracy and human rights had
become a "ritual".
"Some admissions [to the council] stick in my throat," Leuprecht also remarked.
Leuprecht teaches international human rights law at Canada's McGill and Quebec Universities.