Top rights official "did not resign over abuse claims"

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Flavia Pansieri had emergency surgery earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré

Questions over the UN's handling of abuse allegations about peacekeeping troops in Africa had nothing to do with the recent resignation of a high-profile official, the UN's human rights chief insisted Friday.

Dismissing media "insinuation" surrounding the departure of Flavia Pansieri – the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights – her boss Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that recurrent serious health problems had in fact forced her hand.

Ms Pansieri has been very ill since the beginning of the year and has needed emergency hospital treatment twice, the human rights chief's office, OHCHR, said.

Daniel Johnson has the details.

Following the resignation of Flavia Pansieri on Wednesday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that every single media report about her had insinuated it was because of her handling of abuse allegations relating to French troops in Central African Republic.

That was not the case, the High Commissioner said.

And in a bid to set the record straight, he explained that in fact Ms Pansieri has been suffering from three separate serious medical conditions and has twice needed emergency hospital treatment.

Earlier this month Ms Pansieri had surgery for a detached retina, the High Commissioner said.

His statement was read by UN spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"Since every single article published about her resignation has made that link, and either said or strongly implied that the reasons relating to her personal health were simply an excuse, she has authorized me to give a little more information about her health, something which – as would be the case with most of us – she would have preferred to remain private."

The High Commissioner noted that Ms Pansieri had come out of retirement to take up her position, but given her current state of health, she felt she could not guarantee that she will regain the energy and stamina required to fulfil her duties.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'11


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