Austrian diplomat tipped to head sensitive UN rights office

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FILE – United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Tuerk speaks at the “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” regarding the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrant crisis at a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, May 29, 2015. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has proposed the veteran Austrian diplomat to head the global body’s human rights office at a time when it is facing harsh criticism from China for accusing Beijing of abuses against Muslim minorities. The proposal of Volker Tuerk, currently under-secretary-general for policy in Guterres’ office, needs to be approved by the U.N. General Assembly. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

BERLIN (AP) — United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has proposed a veteran Austrian diplomat to head the global body’s human rights office at a time when it is facing harsh criticism from China for accusing Beijing of abuses against Muslim minorities.

The proposal circulated to member states late Wednesday of Volker Tuerk, currently undersecretary-general for policy in Guterres’ office, needs to be approved by the U.N. General Assembly.

Tuerk, who spent many years working for the U.N. refugee agency, would succeed Michelle Bachelet of Chile as High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva.

Bachelet’s term ended in August with the release of a highly anticipated report on human rights in China’s western region of Xinjiang. The report accused Beijing of serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups that may amount to “crimes against humanity.”

China blasted the report, accusing the U.N. rights office of fabrication and allowing itself to be used by Western nations.

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