UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet will not seek reelection

Michelle Bachelet, UN high commissioner for human rights attends 50th session of Human Rights Council. 13 June 2022. (Credit: UN Photo/Jean Marc Ferré)

Michelle Bachelet told the Human Rights Council on Monday that this would be her last session, signalling she would not seek reelection as UN human rights commissioner.

“As my term as high commissioner draws to a close, this Council’s milestone fiftieth session will be the last which I brief,” she said, opening the UN rights meeting, held in Geneva from 13 June to 8 July.

Her announcement comes as she reaches the end of her four-year-term in August, confirming rumours that she would be stepping down.

“This Council, for all of the differences of its members, remains central to protecting and promoting the human rights that lie at the heart of our common humanity,” she added, urging members to “be willing to hear the other”.

Bachelet raises concerns about Xinjiang

The rights chief also briefed the UN body about her contested visit to China in late May. She said that she had met with senior officials there to discuss “human rights concerns”, including their policies for countering terrorism and safeguarding national security.

Bachelet added that she “raised concerns regarding the human rights situation of the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including broad arbitrary detention and patterns of abuse, both in the VETC [vocational education and training centers] system and in other detention facilities”.

She also announced that her long-awaited report on Xinjiang was “being updated” and would be “shared with the Government for factual comments before publication”.

Campaigners and states have been calling for months for the release of the report, which has been kept under wraps despite being ready for at least six months, according to observers.

Bachelet has come under criticism for the secrecy surrounding the document as well as the terms of her visit to China. The rights chief told the Council she was in discussions with Chinese authorities for “possible follow-up actions” with her office on human rights concerns in the Hong Kong and Tibet regions.

“Going forward, we have agreed with the government of China to hold an annual senior meeting on human rights and to continue exchanges on the above mentioned topics and specific human rights issues of concern,” she said.

“We are now elaborating concrete steps to put the agreements into action.”