No joke: the UN is now arguing that Michelle Bachelet’s close ties to the Maduro and Castro dictatorships is a good thing— because, as UN rights chief, “the important point is to reach out to all leaders and be able to have a dialogue with them…” All of this in reaction to UN Watch’s release. Full transcript below.

Full UN Transcript:

Deputy Spokesman: In remarks made earlier this morning, the Secretary-General said he was delighted that the General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He said that Ms. Bachelet has lived under the darkness of dictatorship.  As a physician, he said, she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights, and she knows the responsibilities of both national and global leadership.

The Secretary-General said that she takes office at a time of grave consequence for human rights, with hatred and inequality on the rise, respect for international humanitarian and human rights law on the decline, space for civil society shrinking and press freedoms under pressure.  To navigate these currents, he said, we need a strong advocate for all human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural.  His remarks are online.

Question: The Secretary-General said that his choice for the Commissioner for the Human Rights is “perfectly suited” and that she lived “under the darkness of dictatorship”. If you can put a little bit more light, what does it mean, how that helps because she lived under the darkness of dictatorship?  And also how the Secretary-General would like or did he, sorry if I missed that part, responded already to those critics or those who are a little bit more reserved accepting his nomination for this post?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I’m not aware of any particular criticism of Michelle Bachelet.  She’s had an esteemed record as a Head of State and head of UN-Women prior to this, so her record speaks for itself.  Regarding the question of her past and the Chilean dictatorship, the fact is she knows from her own life how important human rights are and what it feels like to have your basic rights deprived.  This is someone who herself has suffered from torture and from the loss of the members of her family and she knows exactly how bad things can go when human rights are neglected.

Question:  When it comes just to follow up… when it comes to the… the criticism, there has been a criticism that she already met with some of the world leaders who doesn’t have a very great record on the human rights like in Latin America, in Venezuela, in Cuba, etc., so that was the criticism.  How do you respond to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  The simple fact of the matter is that part of the job of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is to meet with world leaders whose countries have… when she is the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she will have to deal with world leaders from countries that have bad human rights records as well as good ones.  The important point is to reach out to all leaders and be able to have a dialogue with them to improve the records in each country.

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