Ms. Bachelet created a surprise at the opening of the 50th session of the Human Rights Council. “As my mandate as High Commissioner comes to an end, this 50th session of the Council will be the last at which I will speak,” said the 70-year-old former President of Chile.

The secret about his intentions had until then been well kept. During a brief press briefing, Ms. Bachelet said that she had informed her “boss” Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, of her decision two months ago.

“He wanted me to stay but (…) I am no longer a young woman and after a long and rich career, I want to return to my country, to my family,” she explained.

The post of High Commissioner for Human Rights is usually subject to strong political pressure and almost all of his predecessors have avoided serving a second term.

Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s first female president, a victim of torture, was appointed high commissioner in 2018 and her dialogue-based style marked a clear break from her predecessor, Jordan’s Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“Continue to seek dialogue,” she told the Council, before insisting: “Be ready to listen to each other, understand each other’s points of view and work actively to find common ground. “

– Chinese thorn –

The former president has been subjected to severe criticism in recent months by the United States but also by major human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which accuse her of not being firm enough in the face of to human rights violations in China, particularly during his visit to that country, the first by a High Commissioner since 2005.

“It has nothing to do” with his decision not to run for a second term, assures Ms. Bachelet.

If “I always listen when people criticize us”, it “is not what makes me adopt certain positions”, she insisted.

She also promised that the UN report on human rights violations in Xinjiang – home to Uyghurs persecuted by Beijing – would be published before her departure on August 31. Many countries are crying out for it.

Bachelet said she would first share it with the Chinese authorities, as tradition dictates.

“I have always emphasized the importance of dialogue in my interactions with all member countries, including on the most difficult subjects,” she told the Council.

– Detention and torture –

Born September 29, 1951 in Santiago, Michelle Bachelet spent her childhood criss-crossing Chile following the transfers of her father, an air force pilot. In 1970, she began studying medicine and entered the Socialist Youth.

On September 11, 1973, the date of the coup d’etat of Augusto Pinochet, his father, was arrested. He will die six months later in detention, tortured by his peers.

The death of Alberto Bachelet will forever mark the life of his daughter, who will always want to live up to this beloved and admired father.

She continued her medical studies but in January 1975, she was arrested with her mother by the secret services, who took them to the Villa Grimaldi detention center, where the two women were tortured.

She will be twice president of her country.

After a first mandate (2006-2010) completed with record popularity, Ms. Bachelet could not immediately stand for re-election, the Constitution prohibiting the exercise of two consecutive mandates.

Appointed executive director of UN Women, she then left Santiago for New York.

She then served a second term (2014-2018) as the Chilean presidency during which she shook up a reputedly very conservative society with a series of progressive reforms, including the adoption of same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of abortion, until there prohibited.