New Secretary General joins Amnesty International

Irene is the seventh Secretary General to serve in the organisation's 40-year history and is the first woman and first Asian to hold the position.

Irene takes over from Pierre Sané, who was Secretary General for 10 years and has now joined UNESCO as Director for Social and Human Rights.

At Amnesty International's International Council Meeting (ICM), which starts on August 17 in Dakar, Senegal, Pierre Sané will hand over to Irene in an opening ceremony. Passing a candle to represent the organisation's logo of a candle wrapped in barbed wire, Pierre will bid the international movement 'au revoir' and express his ongoing commitment and support to the human rights movement.

Accepting the candle, Irene will speak about her hopes and enthusiasm for the job at hand. Irene said, 'This is a symbolic moment for Amnesty International which we can all share before we focus on the way forward, the challenges which face human rights in the 21st century and our role in tackling them.'

Irene Khan joins Amnesty International from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees with which she worked for 21 years. During this time she held a range of positions but focussed on direct work with refugees and displaced people to protect their rights. It is this commitment to direct contact which she intends to bring to her new position. She said, 'Human rights violations are perpetrated on a massive scale, hundreds, thousands, millions. But at its very essence, Amnesty International is about individuals: those whose rights are violated and those who speak out against the violations. Human rights violations are not committed against the ‘other side' but against a mother, a sister, a brother, a son. Our challenge is to mobilise millions of people across the globe in solidarity with the victims, to know their names, their faces, their identities, their stories.'

The ICM is held every two years and brings together 500 members of Amnesty International to decide on future plans and to address the changing face of human rights work.

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