Michelle Bachelet was 22 years old and studying medicine in Chile when her world was turned upside down. The year was 1973 and her beloved father disappeared in prison under the newly installed government of the military junta headed by General Pinochet. He didn’t survive long inside. And then, in February 1975, they also locked her and her mother in a secret prison. Without official charges, behind bars whose existence the Chilean junta did not acknowledge. They were not managed by the police, but by the secret services.
The place where Bachelet’s mother and daughter were imprisoned was called Villa Grimaldi. The infamous Villa Grimaldi, rumored to be a torture center. In a whisper, because it didn’t exist.
“I understand very well the people I talk to in my current job,” Michelle Bachelet, now single, noted 46 years later. It was June 2021 and she had not only completed two presidential mandates in her native Chile, but also three years as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“I always tell them: You don’t have to explain this to me,” she described her approach to dealing with victims of human rights crimes. “I experienced it. They detained me arbitrarily. I was ‘disappeared’. I was in your shoes. I was lucky to survive.’
Crimes against humanity
That was last year. Yesterday, August 31, 2022, Michelle Bachelet ended her post as High Commissioner for Human Rights. And unlike her former presidency in Chile, she has already announced that she does not intend to seek re-election. Her recent inspection trip to the People’s Republic of China cast a very unflattering shadow on her last months in office. In particular, the visit to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region directed and closely supervised by the Chinese security forces.
Main conclusions of the “Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights concerns in the Uyghur Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China” (31 August 2022):