Thomas Hammarberg, currently head of the Olof Palme International Center, has been chosen as Commissioner for human rights in the Council of Europe.
Hammarberg will be responsible for promoting education, awareness and respect for human rights in member states and ensuring full compliance with the Council of Europe’s texts. The post of Commissioner, which was created in 1999, plays a supporting and essentially preventive role without legal powers.
The Swede replaces Alvaro Gil-Robles from Spain, who was the first holder of the post. His experience includes a number of U.N assignments and the post of Secretary General of Amnesty International and Save the Children Sweden.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s oldest political organizations. It was founded in 1949 and groups 46 countries. It is distinct from the European Union, has a €186 million annual budget and headquarters are in Strasbourg.
“It is extremely gratifying that Hammarberg has been elected to this important post”, said Laila Freivalds, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, “Human rights issues require constant attention, and I am convinced that with his knowledge and his long experience, he will do an excellent job”.
Terry Davis, Council of Europe Secretary General, underlined that “The Commissioner for Human Rights makes an essential contribution to the work of the Council of Europe, confirming the Organization as the political, legal and moral authority on human rights in Europe.”
Hammarberg is joining a long line of prominent Swedish experts, mediators and international diplomats who were called upon to help resolve conflicts and protect human rights all over the world. Dag Hammarskjöld is probably the most known – he served as U.N Secretary General from 1953 to 1961 and helped make the organization more effective by strengthening the role of this position.
Other important names are Folke Bernadotte, the very first U.N. mediator who was assigned to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back in 1948, Olof Palme, who mediated in the Iraq-Iran conflict from 1980 to 1984, and Hans Blix, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission).
Sweden is also among the world’s most generous U.N and E.U contributors and one of the countries that has provided the most personnel for peacekeeping operations.