Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad

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Prince Zeid
Spouse Sarah Butler
Issue Prince Ra'ad
Princess Hala
Princess Azziza
Dynasty Hashemite dynasty
Father Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid
Mother Margaretha Inga Elisabeth Lind
Born (1964-01-26) 26 January 1964 (age 51)
Amman, Jordan

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein (born 26 January 1964) is the current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, having taken up this post in September 2014.[1] He is the son of Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid, Lord Chamberlain of Jordan, and his Swedish-born wife Margaretha Inga Elisabeth Lind, subsequently known as Majda Raad. Previously, he was Jordan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. From 2007 to 2010 he served as Jordan's Ambassador to the United States and non-resident Ambassador to Mexico. Zeid played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, and was elected the first president of the Assembly of State Parties of the International Criminal Court in September 2002. He also served as a political affairs officer in UNPROFOR, in the former Yugoslavia, from 1994 to 1996.

Education and career[edit]

Zeid was born in Amman, Jordan. He was educated at Reed's School, Surrey, in England, then at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, where he was a prominent member of the university's rugby club and graduated B.A. in 1987. He was then a research student at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he gained a Ph.D in 1993.

In 1989 Prince Zeid received his commission as an officer in the Jordanian desert police (the successor to the Arab Legion), and saw service with them until 1994. He then spent two years as a political officer in UNPROFOR, the UN force in the Former Yugoslavia.

Zeid served as Jordan's Deputy Permanent Representative, and then Permanent Representative, at the United Nations from 1996 to 2007. For three years he was Jordan's Ambassador to the United States of America, then in 2010 returned to the UN as Jordan's Permanent Representative. He was also Jordan's "Sherpa" on Nuclear Security.

In January 2014 Zeid was appointed as president of the United Nations Security Council and chaired the Security Council's 1533 and 1521 committees, with regard to two sanctions regimes: the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.

From 16 September 2010 to 7 March 2012, Zeid was the Chairman of the Country-Specific Configuration of the UN Peace Building Commission for Liberia. He also chaired the search committee for the selection of the second prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in 2011.

With reference to the International Criminal Court, and from 1996 to 2010, he was:

  • President of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002–2005).
  • Chairman of the informal negotiations on the 'elements' of the individual offenses falling under the crimes of: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes(1999-2000).
  • Chairman of the Working Group on the Crime of Aggression at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute in Kampala (June 2010).

While at the UN, he further chaired the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) from 2004–2007 and in 2004 was named Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN peacekeeping. During his two-year tenure, he issued a ground-breaking report on eliminating such abuse from all peacekeeping operations, which became known as the 'Zeid Report'.[2]

Zeid delivered the Grotius Lecture at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (April 2008) entitled: 'For Love of Country and International Criminal Law'. Prince Zeid was a member of the Advisory Committee to the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation. He was also a member of the World Bank's Advisory Council for the World Development Report 2011 and the International Advisory Board of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.[3]

On June 6, 2014, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon proposed that Prince Zeid replace Navi Pillay as the United Nations' human rights chief based in Geneva. The nomination, which was subsequently approved by the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly, made him the first Muslim to lead the UN Human Rights Office.[4] Full texts of all his statements are available at the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.[5] In that capacity he has stated, "There is no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings – on whatever basis: nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste."[6]

Tenure as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights[edit]

On 8 September 2014, in his maiden speech to the UN's 47-member council at the body's 27th session in Geneva, Zeid strongly criticized the so-called Islamic State group, saying it was trying to create a "house of blood". He called on the international community to combat the spread of the movement in Iraq and Syria, asking, "[Do] they believe they (ISIS) are acting courageously, barbarically slaughtering captives?" The massacres, beheadings, rape and torture "reveal only what a Takfiri (ie. 'infidel' in Arabic) state would look like, should this movement actually try to govern in the future", he said. "It would be a harsh, mean-spirited house of blood, where no shade would be offered, nor shelter given to any non-Takfiri in their midst". In a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Commissioner said that lessons from the Holocaust provide a key to understanding ISIS. He said: "If we have learned anything from our collective history, it is this: Scrambling only for ourselves, our people, our political or religious ideology, or for our own kind will only scramble it all — eventually, sometimes horrifyingly so — for everyone." According to press accounts, he said "The solution he proposed for avoiding atrocities such as the Holocaust was human rights education for every child in the world, beginning before the age of nine. 'In this way, from Catholic parochial schools to the most secular public institutions, and indeed Islamic madrassahs, children could learn — even in kindergarten — and experience the fundamental human rights values of equality, justice and respect.'"[7]

The newly appointed Commissioner also focused on other troubled areas of the world, including Ukraine and Gaza.[8] His press statements are available on the website of his office.[5]

He has reported to the Security Council on Iraq[9] and other countries, and spoken of the need for greater moral courage to ensure equality and human rights for all: "Children need to learn what bigotry and chauvinism are, and the evil they can produce. They need to learn that blind obedience can be exploited by authority figures for wicked ends. They should also learn that they are not exceptional because of where they were born, how they look, what passport they carry, or the social class, caste or creed of their parents; they should learn that no-one is intrinsically superior to her or his fellow human beings ... Sadly, they must learn that the Zeppelin Field, the shadow of Buchenwald, the glint of the machete and the horror of life today in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and elsewhere – wherever we live, they are never that far away."[10]

He said that the United States had an obligation under international law to prosecute all those responsible for C.I.A. torture, from those who carried out interrogations to policy makers and higher-ups who gave the orders.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Zeid is the son of Prince Ra'ad bin Zeid, Lord Chamberlain of Jordan. His paternal grandmother was the renowned Turkish painter Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid who was married to Prince Zeid bin Hussein.[12]

The UN does not permit the use of royal or other titles by its officials in the context of their official work.

Prince Zeid was married on the 5 July 2000 in Amman to Sarah Butler, known as Princess Sarah Zeid after her marriage, who was born in Houston, Texas, on 1 August 1972. She was educated at Prior's Field, Hurtwood House in Surrey, and has a BA in International Relations from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas and an MSC in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London. She was then employed with the United Nations Organization in New York City, where she served in the development program, the peace-keeping department and UNICEF. She is the daughter of Dr Godfrey Butler, a British geologist (PhD) and a consultant to international oil companies, and Jean H. Butler.[13]


  1. ^ OHCHR. "High Commissioner". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  2. ^ United Nations. "Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  3. ^ Auschwitz Institute. "Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation International Advisory Board - Former Member - Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  4. ^ Huffington Post Sept. 8, 2014
  5. ^ a b OHCHR. "News Search". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  6. ^ UN: Landmark Resolution on Anti-Gay Bias,
  7. ^ Haaretz, Feb 7, 2014, "Holocaust key to understanding ISIS, says UN human rights chief"
  8. ^ OHCHR. "Opening Statement by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Human Rights Council 27th Session - Geneva, 8 September, 2014". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  9. ^ OHCHR. "Statement to the Security Council on Iraq by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, Delivered in New York, 18 November 2014". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  10. ^ OHCHR. "Keynote speech by Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Conference on "Education for Peace" Palais des Nations, Geneva, 14 January 2015". Retrieved 2015-02-05. 
  11. ^ U.N. Rights Chief Says He’ll Shine a Light on Countries Big and Small By NICK CUMMING-BRUCE, New York Times, JAN. 30, 2015
  12. ^ Bonhams. "Bonhams sets new world record for Turkish Artist Fahrelnissa Zeid (1901-1991)". Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  13. ^

External links[edit]

Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad
Born: 26 January 1964
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Prince Ra'ad I bin Zeid
(disputed by Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein)
Line of succession to the Iraqi throne
Reason for succession failure:
Kingdom abolished in 1958
Iraqi Constitution of 1943 restricts succession to Iraqi nationals
Right of succession disputed between relatives of the last king of Iraq
Succeeded by
Prince Ra'ad II bin Zeid