UN High Commissioner | General Assembly approves appointment of Michelle Bachelet

10.08.2018

The International Service for Human Rights welcomes today's appointment of Michelle Bachelet as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and urges her to make the protection and promotion of human rights defenders a top priority. 

Today the UN General Assembly approved the UN Secretary General's nomination of Michelle Bachelet as the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Bachelet, ex-President of Chile and ex Executive Director of UN Women, will start her four-year term on 1 September. 

ISHR’s Executive Director Phil Lynch welcomed the appointment and emphasised the importance of the new High Commissioner making the protection of human rights defenders a top priority for the Office. 

'The work of human rights defenders makes the world and our communities more fair and just. Despite this, attacks and threats against defenders are on the rise. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must be proactive and unstinting in the promotion and protection of the rights of defenders,’ said Lynch.

'As the UN's human rights chief, the High Commissioner needs to be the fiercest defender of human rights defenders.’   

ISHR offers the following recommendations to ensure that the situation of human rights defenders is placed at the fore of the concerns of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and promoted throughout the UN system. The High Commissioner should:

  • Be proactive in consulting and working in partnership with civil society on a regular basis
  • Speak out on cases of threats, attacks and reprisals against civil society and demand accountability, calling for and supporting impartial investigations and prosecution of perpetrators
  • Work with States to fulfil the promises of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including through the development of specific laws, policies and mechanisms to protect defenders
  • Build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics and business enterprises with a shared interest in human rights and the rule of law
  • Define an operating procedure at OHCHR to ensure that all the offices establish and apply minimum standards in regard to their work on human rights defenders (bearing in mind local context)
  • Work closely with the Secretary-General to ensure that all UN agencies contribute to the protection of defenders and an enabling environment for their work

This year is an important one for human rights defenders. 2018 marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders. 

'The High Commissioner should consider kicking off her tenure with a clear and categorical statement about the vital work of defenders,' said ISHR's Co-Director in New York, Eleanor Openshaw. 'This would signal the significance of this year’s anniversary and the importance the new High Commissioner places on this issue.'

ISHR looks forward to the opportunity to engage directly with the new High Commissioner on a range of human rights concerns, including ensuring the respect of the rights of human rights defenders. 

'As High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet will have the support of a vibrant, committed and passionate global community of human rights defenders, dedicated to making the world fairer and more just for all. We look forward to working with her,' Lynch said.

With the end of the tenure of Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lynch noted:

'Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein has been a passionate and unstinting supporter of human rights defenders during his time as High Commissioner. He has been a principled, independent and outspoken champion of human rights for all. We would like to thank Mr al Hussein for his work and wish him well for the future.'

Contact:  Phil Lynch  p.lynch@ishr.ch or +41 76 708 4738

Photo:  Michelle Bachelet Official site

Category:

Topic
  • Human rights defenders
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • UN General Assembly