Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who took the helm of the U.N. human rights office on Monday, will need a strong voice in confronting war crimes, including the Israeli settlements in Palestine territory, activists said.
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Zeid left a political hot potato after saying in January that his office had found 206 companies doing business linked to unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank and urging them to avoid any complicity in “pervasive” violations against Palestinians. His report did not name the companies and said that its database was not yet complete.
“The immediate test she has got in terms of taking on the Council is the settlements database,” Roth said, saying that Bachelet should not delay publication of the list.
Zeid, asked last week his advice to Bachelet, told reporters: “To very much continue along the same trajectory.”
“This is an extraordinarily challenging time for human rights, given the rise of autocratic populists, the increasingly muscular hostility of China and Russia, the loss of the United States and often the United Kingdom as voices for human rights, and a leadership void making possible a proliferation of atrocities in such places as Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar,” Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.
But he said some governments and U.N. officials hope she will be “quieter and more selective” than Zeid who criticized governments in China, Israel, Russia and the United States.
Bachelet also swiftly called on Myanmar to free two Reuters journalists convicted earlier in the day for their reporting on the crackdown on Rohingya.
Just last week independent U.N. investigators said that six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for “genocidal intent” and another expert panel said that some air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen may amount to war crimes.
Bachelet was chosen by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to succeed Zeid of Jordan and the appointment was approved by the General Assembly last month. She was tortured during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet but later rose to serve twice as Chile’s president.