Former President of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Judge Navanethem Pillay assumed on 1 September 2008 her new post as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the coming five years. Judge Pillay was appointed to the new post by the UN General Assembly on 28 July 2008.
Judge Pillay, a South African national, was elected as President of the ICTR in May 1999 and re-elected to a second term of office in 2001. She served as Judge of the ICTR since May 1995, following her election to that position by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Judge participated in the adjudication of a number of historic cases before the ICTR that have established precedents for various international jurisdictions. These cases include the Kambanda case, in which the former Prime Minister was convicted, on a plea of guilty, of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. This was the first conviction of a head of Government by an international court.
Another landmark case in which Judge Pillay participated was the Akayesu case. This was the first ever judgement for the crime of genocide by an international court. This case set a precedent in its conviction of Akayesu, a Rwanda Mayor, for rape as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide.
After serving the ICTR, Judge Pillay was in 2003 elected as a Judge of the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, The Netherlands where she worked until this year.