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August 10, 2018 3:09 pm

New UN Human Rights Chief’s Silence Toward Authoritarian Regimes Needs Explaining, Prominent Watchdog Says

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New UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet. Photo: Reuters / Ivan Alvarado.

Incoming UN Human Rights Commission chief Michelle Bachelet is being pressed to clarify her “spotty record” on human rights abuses committed by leftist regimes in Latin America.

Geneva-based NGO UN Watch said on Friday that it “regretted” that the former Chilean president — a past critic of Israel who recalled her country’s ambassador to the Jewish state in 2014 as a protest against the war with Hamas in Gaza —  “has not yet responded to questions that were raised over her spotty record on supporting human rights in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”

A socialist who was imprisoned and tortured in 1975 under General Augusto Pinochet’s military regime, Bachelet entered Chilean politics as minister of health in 2000, later becoming defense minister and then serving two terms as the country’s president. Her appointment this month as the UN’s human rights chief received a cautious welcome from US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who reiterated on Wednesday that the global body had “failed to adequately address major human rights crises in Iran, North Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere, or stop its chronic, disproportionate obsession with Israel.”

“It is up to Ms. Bachelet to speak out against these failures rather than accept the status quo,” Haley said in a statement.

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But on Friday, UN Watch listed a number of actions taken by Bachelet in support of the authoritarian leftist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — including her praise for the late dictators Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, and her silence on the continuing abuses committed by Venezuela’s current ruler, Nicolas Maduro. The NGO also criticized Bachelet’s silence on the violent suppression of peaceful protests in Nicaragua by leftist President Daniel Ortega.

“There’s no question that the former Chilean president is a highly educated and intelligent politician, who also brings important negotiating skills,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, in a statement. “But she has a controversial record when it comes to her support for the human rights abusing governments who rule Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and we need to know how she plans to address these urgent situations.”

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