New UN Human Rights Chief Has Spotty Record On Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua; Watchdog Expresses 'Serious Concerns'
GENEVA, August 10, 2018 - The non-governmental human rights group UN Watch congratulated Michelle Bachelet on her appointment today as UN human
rights chief, but joined Amnesty International
and other NGOs in criticizing the lack of transparency of the rushed process.
In particular, UN Watch regreted that Bachelet has not yet responded to questions that were raised over her spotty
record on supporting human rights in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
In a statement released on Wednesday, UN Watch had asked to meet the former Chilean president to obtain clarifications.
"There's no question that the former Chilean president is a highly educated and intelligent politician, who also brings
important negotiating skills," said Hillel C. Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
"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."
Neuer cited the following Bachelet actions that he said raise "troubling questions":
• 2018 Cuba Visit: Bachelet's visit to Cuba earlier this year, one of her last trips before leaving office, was strongly criticized
by members of her own party and others, especially human rights activists. She met with the last military dictator of
the Americas, Gen. Raúl Castro, without seeing any member of Cuba’s peaceful opposition.
Opposition leader Rosa María Payá asked Bachelet to meet with human rights dissidents during her trip to the island, but
that request was completely ignored. “She is rewarding those responsible for the longest dictatorship in the region,” said
"Her closeness to Havana is marked by an ideological nostalgia that clouds her view and her ability to recognize the
lack of rights that mark the lives of Cubans," said prominent Cuban human rights blogger Yoani Sanchez.
"In each of her two terms," wrote
Sanchez, "Bachelet avoided showing sympathy for the cause of Cuban dissidents and has declined any contact with the
countless activists from the island who have visited her country in recent years. From her mouth, there has never been
any condemnation of the political repression systematically carried out by Raúl Castro, even when the victims are
• Praised Cuban Dictator: On Fidel Castro’s death, she called
him “a leader for dignity and social justice in Cuba and Latin America,” a statement that was sharply criticized
by Chilean political leaders across the spectrum, who said it showed insensitivity to victims of Cuban state
• Praised Hugo Chavez: Bachelet eulogized
Chavez — whose legacy in Venezuela is mass hunger, jailed opposition leaders and a failed state — for “his most
profound love for his people and the challenges of our region to eradicate poverty and generate a better life for
everyone and his profound love for Latin America.”
• Refusal to Condemn Maduro, Slammed by HRW: Bachelet was called out
by Human Rights Watch's Latin America chief in July 2017 for her "serious error" of "failing to characterize the Nicolás
Maduro regime as a dictatorship, or at least as a regime that broke the constitutional order," as affirmed by 20
countries in the OAS. "The most serious thing," said José Miguel Vivanco, "is that the president [Bachelet] continues to
insist that the problem of Venezuela is the lack of dialogue, suggesting that there is a kind of shared responsibility."
• Quiet on Nicaragua Killings: Over the past months of the Ortega regime's killing of hundreds of protesters, Bachelet's twitter account shows not a single tweet
mentioning Nicaragua or its victims.
UN Watch expressed regret that none of the above concerns were addressed before her appointment was approved, only two
days after her name was put forward by the Secretary-General.
On process, UN Watch noted the following:
• No Transparency: The appointment was treated as an internal recruitment process, without elements such as a public list of candidates
and vision statements, as for the most recent Secretary-General appointment process. Transparency over such an important
appointment would have helped to improve public perceptions of the High Commissioner’s office, strengthen Bachelet’s
legitimacy and would be in line with the UN’s own best practices. Only one candidate, Nils Melzer, publicly declared his
candidacy, and shared his vision for the role.
• Timing: The official process to find the next High Commissioner was triggered less than three months before the mandate begins.
Bachelet will have the shortest preparation time
in the role’s history.
UN Watch has been a leading voice at the United Nations Human Rights Council for human rights victims in Cuba