Chile's Bachelet to become next UN human rights chief

Will replace Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein who is currently in charge

Published: August 09, 2018 13:09:33 | Updated: August 11, 2018 16:28:16

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has chosen former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to be the world body’s new human rights chief, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The 193-member UN General Assembly is due to meet on Friday to approve Bachelet’s appointment. She would replace Jordan’s outspoken Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who is stepping down at the end of the month after a four-year term in the Geneva-based job.

Ambassadors chairing different regional groups at the United Nations were told of the decision on Tuesday by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, several diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, briefed media earlier on Wednesday.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement that Guterres formally notified the General Assembly on Wednesday.

Bachelet, a victim of torture under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, was conservative Chile’s first female leader.

The pediatrician-turned-politician first 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 countries 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 2018, pushing for a more radical tax-and-spend agenda, as well as broader abortion rights and gay marriage.

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

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

Zeid said the pressure of the human rights job was intense. After a tough week last year, his wife recommended he watch feel-good reality television show “The Great British Bake Off” to take his mind off human rights abuses, Reuters reports.

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

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