Bachelet vs. Neo-Con Bolton at The United Nations

September 20, 2018

 Bachelet vs. Neo- Con Bolton

Image result for Human Rights' Bachelet vs. Neo- Con Bolton

The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (pic above), arrives on the job at a time when the office she leads is coming under attack – and not only from the usual suspects. In fact, it is US National Security Adviser John Bolton, a longtime adversary of the UN, who poses the biggest threat.


NEW YORK – On September 1, Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, took office as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her long record of success in Chilean politics has prepared her well for this assignment, which could easily become one of the toughest of her career.

The office she leads is under attack, and not only from thuggish authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Hungary, the Philippines, and Russia. American officials – and in particular, National Security Adviser John Bolton – are also working hard to undermine the office’s effectiveness. Among Bachelet’s top challenges will be persuading the US Congress to block efforts by the Trump administration to withhold funds from her agency in violation of US treaty obligations.

Image result for Human Rights' Bachelet vs. Neo- Con Bolton

That message may be a hard sell, but her experience makes her uniquely qualified to deliver it. In 1975, Bachelet and her mother were imprisoned and tortured by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime. For several weeks, Bachelet was blindfolded and strapped to a chair in the Villa Grimaldi detention center in Santiago as her captors threatened to kill her mother. They were eventually released and allowed to go into exile in Australia, and then to East Germany.

Bachelet’s father, an Air Force general, died of a heart attack from the torture he suffered during his imprisonment for opposing the military coup that brought Pinochet to power. And Bachelet’s then-partner, a leader of the country’s Socialist Party, was detained and disappeared during the dictatorship.

After Bachelet returned home in 1979, she became a doctor and later studied military science in Chile and the United States. When democracy was restored in 1990, she served as health minister and defense minister, before twice being elected president. In the interim, she led UN Women, the UN’s office for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Image result for Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Distinguished Jordanian Diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

As the UN’s human rights commissioner, Bachelet is succeeding another distinguished administrator, Jordanian diplomat Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Zeid was an outspoken critic of rights abusers, and his public statements were always well informed, perceptive, and fair. During his four-year tenure, no government or group received special treatment for political or geopolitical reasons. Although Zeid did not seek a second term because of what he called pressure to curb his candor, the standards he set strengthened the UN’s reputation as a global defender of human rights. But Zeid’s approach also put a bull’s-eye on the office and its work.

Presidents Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, and Vladimir Putin of Russia, along with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, frequently accused the agency and its boss of bias. In the US, Bolton is using similar language as he leads efforts to slash the office’s annual budget. This is the breach into which Bachelet steps.

Like Zeid, Bachelet will not take direction from the UN Human Rights Council. While high commissioners carry out the Council’s work, they essentially function as free agents, able to air their opinions freely. That is a good thing. The work of the Council – an intergovernmental body of 47 UN states that operates with rotating membership – has long been influenced by national interests. For example, in June, the Trump administration cut America’s ties to the Council, citing its frequent criticism of Israel. And, because membership can include rights violators themselves, its agenda is susceptible to politicization.

Still, the quality of the Council’s output has been improving. A recent report on Myanmar, for example, pulled no punches and directly accused the country’s military leadership of committing genocide against the Rohingya. Other recent contributions that earn high marks include inquiries on Syria and North Korea.

Bolton has sought to undermine the effectiveness of the UN ever since 2005, when President George W. Bush installed him as US ambassador to the organization. The US Senate’s eventual refusal to confirm the recess appointment limited the damage that Bolton might have done.

But, today, Bolton has even more power; it will once again be up to Congress to ensure that his destructive influence is kept in check. If Bolton gets his way in damaging the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (as well as the International Criminal Court, at which he took aim on September 10), Bachelet’s stellar resume will not be enough to keep human rights atop the UN agenda.


2 thoughts on “Bachelet vs. Neo-Con Bolton at The United Nations

  1. To protect the Human Rights is the responsibility of the individual member states of the UN and not the United States. It is the time of the year when members of the UN pontificate and report on their unrelenting commitment to Human Rights
    Words and commitment to the IN Charter is good. But positive actions to protect Human Rights is Better. Develop your own countries with the God given resources because illegal migrants are no longer welcome in most countries making up the UN.

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