UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk on Wednesday designated William O’Neill as an expert on human rights in Haiti, following a request from the UN Human Rights Council.
The Council adopted a resolution on 4 April calling for the appointment of an independent rights expert on Haiti, amid mounting concern over deadly gang violence engulfing the country, threatening livelihoods, and pushing half the population into hunger. O’Neill’s appointment is for a renewable period of one year.
O’Neill, a US national, is a lawyer specializing in humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, with a special focus on the establishment and maintenance of the rule of law in post-conflict situations.
He has been the senior adviser on human rights to the UN Mission in Kosovo, chief of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda, and led the Legal Department of the UN/OAS Mission in Haiti. He helped establish the Haitian National Police in 1995, advising on recruitment, testing and training the then new police force, participated in creating the School for Judges, and worked closely with Haitian human rights organizations to help train their human rights monitors. He has also worked on judicial, police, and prison reform in Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, East Timor, Nepal and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Under resolution A/HRC/52/L.17/Rev.1, the expert will be tasked with monitoring, with the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner and in collaboration with the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), the development of the human rights situation in Haiti. In performing his duties, he will pay special attention to the situation of children and of human trafficking, and to ensure a gender perspective. He will also provide advice and technical assistance to the Haitian Government, national human rights institutions and civil society organizations, and assist in their efforts to ensure respect for and the promotion and protection of human rights.
The resolution also requests OHCHR to provide the Haitian Government with technical assistance and support for capacity-building in the promotion and protection of human rights, specifically for the Haitian judiciary, security forces and prison administration.
The work undertaken by O’Neill will contribute to an interim written report that the High Commissioner will present to the Human Rights Council at its 54th session and a comprehensive report thereon to its 55th session.