UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday announced the appointment of Michelle Bachelet, Chile's twice-serving president, as the world body's next human rights chief. 

Bachelet, 66, is set to replace Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein of Jordan, a sharp critic of US President Donald Trump's policies, who held the post of UN high commissioner for human rights since September 2014. 

 A two-time president who ranks among the world's most powerful women in politics, Bachelet also served in 2010 as the first director of UN Women, the UN agency promoting gender equality worldwide. 

Guterres informed the General Assembly of his decision in a letter on Wednesday following consultations with the heads of regional groups at the United Nations, a UN statement said. 

The 193-nation assembly will meet on Friday to vote on the appointment, which is expected to win approval, diplomats said. 

Bachelet will step into a position that has drawn much controversy under Zeid, who decided not to seek a second term after losing support from powerful countries. 

Zeid told staff in a message in December that "in the current geopolitical context," to stay "might involve bending a knee in supplication." 

During a farewell news conference last week, Zeid defended his no-holds-barred approach to denouncing abuses and naming countries that fail to uphold human rights. 

"Silence does not earn you any respect," he said, adding that his advice to his successor would be to "be fair and don't discriminate against any country" and "just come out swinging." 

Zeid steps down on August 31. One of the world's most difficult jobs With Zeid under fire during his tenure, rights groups were concerned that Guterres would seek to appoint a less vocal human rights boss. 

"If selected, Bachelet will be taking on one of the world's most difficult jobs at a moment when human rights are under widespread attack," said Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth. 

"As a victim herself, she brings a unique perspective to the role on the importance of a vigorous defense of human rights. People worldwide will depend on her to be a public and forceful champion, especially where offenders are powerful." 

The daughter of a general who opposed Augusto Pinochet's overthrow of president Salvador Allende, Bachelet was detained in 1975 and held for several weeks at the infamous Villa Grimaldi interrogation and torture center in Santiago. 

"I was mainly tortured psychologically, and some beating, but they didn't 'grill' me," Bachelet said in an interview, using prisoners' slang for electric shocks administered to detainees. 

"I was lucky compared to so many others. Many of them died," said Bachelet in the 2014 interview, one of the few times that she has discussed the ordeal. 

The pediatrician and socialist who was Chile's first woman to hold the presidency was in office from 2006 to 2010, and then again from 2014 to 2018. Last year, Guterres appointed her to be on a high-level UN panel on mediation that provides him with advice on UN peace efforts. 

The UN chief described her as a "long-time champion of women's rights" with a "history of dynamic global leadership, highly-honed political skills and a recognized ability to create consensus."


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