Louise Arbour, a Canadian Supreme Court Justice and ex-prosecutor of United Nations war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, today takes up her duties as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in succession to Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was killed in a terrorist attack in Baghdad last August.
The General Assembly established the position in December 1993, with a wide-ranging mandate to oversee the world body's complex and multifaceted activities in that field. The first person to hold the job was José Ayala Lasso, a former Foreign Minister from Ecuador, who was succeeded by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.
Mr. Vieira de Mello assumed the job on 12 September 2002 before being asked to take what was supposed to be a temporary leave to serve as UN envoy to Iraq, where he was killed in the terrorist bombing that also took the lives of 21 others.
Ms. Arbour, 57, was Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda from October 1996 to September 1999 - a period of intense activity for both courts. Throughout her career, she has published extensively in the fields of criminal procedure, human rights, civil liberties and gender issues.
She was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1971 and the Bar of Ontario in 1977. She served for 13 years as Associate Professor of Law and later Associate Dean at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
Fluent in both English and French, she became a member of the bench in December 1987, first as a trial judge on the Supreme Court of Ontario and, in 1990, at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
In April 1995, she was chosen to lead an official investigation into the operation of the correctional service of Canada, based on allegations by female inmates at a women's prison in Kingston (Ontario).
Until her appointment to the bench, she served as vice-president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.