Guterres taps Chile’s 1st woman prez to be UN rights chief

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 (PTI): Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first woman president and prominent rights advocate, was on Thursday nominated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to be the global body’s next human rights chief.

Bachelet, 66, will succeed Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who had been one of the most outspoken critics of alleged abuses by the governments in many countries.

Following consultations with the Chairs of the regional groups of Member States, Guterres informed the General Assembly of his intention to appoint Bachelet as the next United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Her name now goes forward for consideration and approval by the 193-member UN General Assembly.

Bachelet, a women’s rights champion, ended her second four-year term as President earlier this year, having already held the post between 2006 and 2010.

She was imprisoned and tortured during Chile’s military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

She was the first woman to be elected to Chile’s highest office. After her first term, she came to New York as the first-ever Executive Director of the UN gender equality office, UN-Women. She also held ministerial portfolios in the Chilean Government as Minister of Defence (2002-2004) and Minister of Health (2000-2002).

The UN Human Rights High Commissioner is the principle official who speaks out for human rights across the whole UN system, strengthening human rights mechanisms; enhancing equality; fighting discrimination in all its forms; strengthening accountability and the rule of law; widening the democratic space and protecting the most vulnerable from all forms of human rights abuses.

Al-Hussein will step down from his role at the end of this month. He served a single term, beginning in 2014.

During his tenure, al-hussein had been outspoken in his criticism of abuses in dozens of countries from Myanmar and Hungary to the US.

At a farewell news conference at UN headquarters this month, he had said he does not regret speaking out against human rights abuses as “silence does not earn you any respect – none.”

In June, he released the first-ever report on Kashmir in which he called for a commission of inquiry by the Human Rights Council to conduct an independent, international investigation into the human rights situation.

India had rejected the report, terming it as “fallacious, tendentious and motivated” and a selective compilation of largely unverified information.

In a strong reaction, the Ministry of External Affairs had said the report is “overtly prejudiced”, seeks to build a “false narrative” and violates the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Headquartered in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is mandated to promote and protect the universal exercise and full realisation of human rights across the world as established in the UN Charter.

Bachelet’s nomination received cautious reactions from diplomats and human rights organisations.

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