UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has chosen former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to be the world body’s new human rights chief, five diplomats on condition of anonymity told Reuters news agency.
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed told a group of ambassadors about the decision on Tuesday, diplomats said on Wednesday, as no official announcement has been made.
Farhan Haq did not confirm the selection of Bachelet, which needs to be approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly if she is selected. Her selection would then replace Jordan’s Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who has been a outspoken critic of the U.S President Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
“If selected, Bachelet will be taking on one of the world’s most difficult jobs at a moment when human rights are under widespread attack,” said Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth.
Bachelet was a victim of torture during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship regime and was Chile’s first female leader. In 2017, she was appointed to a high-level UN mediation panel which advised on peace efforts. The UN chief called her as a “long-time champion of women’s rights” with a “history of dynamic global leadership, highly-honed political skills and a recognised ability to create consensus.”
At his farewell press conference in UN headquarters last week, UNHRC High Commissioner Zeid Ra’d Al Hussein defended his blatant criticisms on right abuses in dozen countries saying that his office doesn’t “bring shame on governments, they shame themselves.”
He said, “Silence does not earn you any respect -none.” He added that he will give his successor the same advice his predecessor, Navi Pillay, gave him, “Be fair and don’t discriminate against any country” and “just come out swinging.”
Zeid said he leaves the post on August 31 very concerned about populism, intolerance and oppression “becoming fashionable again,” which could lead to conflict.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said the report was “overtly prejudiced” and sought to build a “false narrative”.
New Delhi had also lodged a strong protest on the use of terminology in the report, saying that the body had departed from internationally accepted terminology.