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Australian labor expert tapped as head of OHCHR Seoul office after 2-year vacancy

James Heenan, head of the OHCHR Office in Palestine (Yonhap)
James Heenan, head of the OHCHR Office in Palestine (Yonhap)

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights appointed an Australian labor expert as the new head of the Seoul office, filling in the post that has been vacant for the past two years, according to a media report Wednesday.

The office of the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General confirmed that James Heenan, the head of the OHCHR Office in Palestine, has been tapped as the new chief of the Seoul office, the Voice of America reported.

“The head of the office is James Heenan and he will begin his role shortly,” the office said, but did not specify when he would take office.

Heenan, having worked at the UN office for 16 years, served in posts such as the chief of a OHCHR treaty body section and country representative in Cambodia. Before joining the UN, he worked as a labor lawyer in Britain and Australia, his home country.

The head of the OHCHR office in Seoul was vacant for two years and two months following Signe Poulsen’s departure for the Philippines upon completing her five-year term in July 2020.

Human rights organizations have raised concerns over the prolonged vacancy and sent letters to the UN secretary-general urging the UN to take action.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

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