Max van der Stoel

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The Independent Online

After the first Gulf War, Max van der Stoel was the expression of the world's conscience and a thorn in the side of Saddam Hussein. Every year for eight years, the former Dutch foreign minister and special UN human rights representative wrote stinging denunciations of Saddam's abuses of his people.

Van der Stoel, who died on 30 April aged 86 at home in The Hague, served a dual role as the human rights watchdog for Iraq and as the first High Commissioner on National Minorities at the 54-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He championed Roma, mediated between Albanian and Macedonian communities and sought to smooth tensions in the Baltic.

Van der Stoel became conscious of human rights issues when he watched the Nazis occupy the Netherlands. His socialism, he said, derived from accompanying his father, a doctor, on visits to poor neighborhoods. His political career began in 1945 when he joined the Labour Party. He served twice as foreign minister and was the Dutch ambassador to the UN for three years.