Fri, Aug 10, 2018 - Page 6 News List

UN taps ex-Chilean leader Bachelet as human rights chief


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has chosen former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to be the new UN Human Rights Council high commissioner, five diplomats said on Wednesday.

Bachelet now needs to be approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly.

She would replace Jordan’s outspoken Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who is stepping down at the end of the month after one four-year term.

A group of ambassadors was told of the decision on Tuesday by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said he expected Guterres to notify General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak of his decision “very soon,” adding: “At this point I don’t have a name to confirm or announce.”

Bachelet, a victim of torture under former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, was conservative Chile’s first female leader.

The pediatrician-turned-politician served as president of Chile from 2006 to 2010. Her amiable style, welfare policies and steady economic growth in one of the region’s most developed nations made her popular.

Bachelet then led UN Women, a body for gender equality and the empowerment of women, between 2010 and 2013, before returning to Chile, where she again served as president from 2014 to this year, pushing for a more radical tax-and-spend agenda, as well as broader abortion rights and marriage equality.

Zeid earlier this month told reporters that he did not seek a second term because he did not believe he would have the support of key world powers, including the US, China and Russia.

Zeid has been strongly critical of some of US President Donald Trump’s policies and his attacks on the media.

“Someone said to me: ‘Just come out swinging’ and that’s what I did,” Zeid said of advice he was given when he started the job in 2014. “We do not bring shame on governments, they shame themselves.”

The pressure of the human rights job was intense, Zeid said.

After a tough week last year, his wife recommended he watch The Great British Bake Off to take his mind off rights abuses.

“This man pulls out a souffle just before the competition ends and the thing collapses,” he said. “I burst into tears and I couldn’t stop.”

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