Croatian Justice Minister Ivan Simonovic has been appointed as the United Nations’ top human rights official. The appointment “received a cool reception” from human rights advocates and Western governments, according to Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy magazine, given Simonovic’s 15 years of service in a government accused of massive human rights violations.
Amnesty International slammed Simonovic’s Justice Ministry last month for not holding Croatian security forces liable for war crimes. U.N. officials, however, said that Simonovic’s record was carefully examined to guarantee that he was not linked to any abuses.
There were also allegations that some candidates with stronger human rights background were bypassed during the recruitment process, according to senior U.N. officials and diplomats familiar with the appointment. The hiring process has also been performed in secrecy, Lynch said.
The recruitment was “extremely rigorous” and all candidates were “looked at extremely carefully before a decision was made,” according to Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The secretary-general is comfortable and happy with the choice of Mr. Simonovic.”