The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who came under international criticism after her trip to China, has surprisingly indicated that she will not serve a second term. Speaking to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, she said she would be making a final report at the panel’s 50th session, which is currently underway, as her tenure as High Commissioner draws to a close. Bachelet did not give any reasons.
After her statement, surprised murmurs spread in the Geneva boardroom. Some diplomats said they expected UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ confidante to remain in the post beyond her term of office, which ends this year.
UN human rights commissioners are tasked with promoting human rights around the world, advising governments that help countries draw up new agreements, and denouncing violations of fundamental rights. Some of the previous high commissioners, such as Bachelet’s predecessor Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, condemned grievances very offensively, even in the most powerful UN countries such as the USA and China. The 70-year-old ex-president of Chile, on the other hand, often chose less clear words than her predecessors.
Criticism after China trip
She was met with strong criticism from governments and human rights activists after her visit to China in May. For years, the People’s Republic has been confronted with allegations that members of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region are being systematically oppressed and abused as forced labourers. Only recently, several international media reported on massive human rights violations, arbitrary detentions, torture and the existence of a shoot-to-kill order. China denies the allegations.
During her trip, however, Bachelet was far too cautious in formulating criticism of China’s handling of human rights, according to civil rights organizations and some Western governments. Commentators accused her of absorbing propaganda from China’s government. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained that the circumstances of the visit were very worrying, and that the authorities had severely restricted their radius of movement. An assessment of the situation in the country is therefore impossible. Human Rights Watch accused her of being too lenient with President Xi Jinping.
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