Report: Outgoing UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet Turned Blind Eye to Dictatorships

Geneva, September 15, 2022 – During her four-year term as UN human rights chief, which ended two weeks ago, Michelle Bachelet was outspoken for victims in Myanmar, Belarus and Sudan, but largely turned a blind eye to widespread violations by China, Turkey, North Korea, Cuba, Eritrea and other serial abusers of human rights, the non-governmental organization UN Watch charged Thursday.

The independent Geneva-based watchdog group made its criticism today in a new report, entitled “Blind Eye to Dictatorships,” that analyzed all press releases and official statements initiated by Bachelet on specific countries.

The report counted all criticisms made at the discretion of Bachelet, rating them as weak, moderate or strong. The study excluded reports mandated by the 47-nation Human Rights Council, or global updates to the plenary.

UN Watch’s report praised Bachelet for calling out the coup by Myanmar’s military junta, crackdowns on dissent in Nicaragua, Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine and election-related repression in Belarus.

“However, during her four years as the world’s highest human rights official, Michele Bachelet routinely avoided criticizing some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, many of them powerful players at the UN who have sat on the Human Rights Council, such as Russia, China and Cuba,” said Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch.

“Apart from the long-delayed report released in the final minutes of her mandate, Bachelet in her 4-year term failed to initiate a single statement about China’s forced detention of a million Uyghurs.”

“The world’s top human rights official, who is uniquely authorized to act independently and hold governments to account, needs to speak truth to power and not pull punches in deference to political pressure,” said Neuer.

Bachelet never issued any press release about Iran’s oppression of dissidents, its discrimination of women, including police violence in enforcing the forced Hijab law, and its fomenting of terrorism.

Likewise, the report found that she failed to criticize Turkey’s arbitrary arrests, attacks on journalists, academics, and human rights defenders, instead only making criticisms of Turkish military actions in Syria.

Bachelet made no statements on Russian political prisoners, arbitrary arrests in Pakistan, or subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia. Only once did she criticize repression by Cuba’s communist government, with whom she was close as president of Chile.

In several instances, noted the report, Bachelet devoted more time to criticizing democracies than she did for some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. She condemned Israel and the U.S. many more times than she criticized North Korea, China, and the Taliban.

“While democracies must be held to account,” said Neuer, “a moral and merits-based approach would demand that the High Commissioner devote more of her office’s limited time and resources to those human rights victims in the world who suffer severe and systematic oppression and who have no recourse to free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech, and other basic institutions of democracy that act as a check and balance to executive power.”

“We urge the new high commissioner, Mr. Volker Türk, to lend his moral voice to the millions of human rights victims who most require the world’s help, and to speak out boldly and immediately in the face of egregious human rights violations,” added Neuer.

Click here for the full report.

UN Watch