UN rights boss welcomes Biden pledges, hopes for reversal of 'serious setbacks' under Trump

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said President-elect Joe Biden would give priority to human rights and to multilateralism. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - US President-elect Joe Biden's pledges to halt the separation of migrant families, address "systemic racism" and climate change are promising and could reverse setbacks during the Trump administration, the UN human rights chief said on Wednesday (Dec 9).

Michelle Bachelet said that US President Donald Trump had rolled back the rights of women, LGBT persons and migrants, as well as stepped back from multilateralism.

The former president of Chile said that she knew Biden well as he had been given responsibility for Latin America while serving as vice-president to President Barack Obama.

"President-elect Biden has made a series of promising pledges. For example expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections, an increase of the number of refugees to be resettled, end of family separation, end to the construction of the border wall, and an overhaul of the asylum system," Bachelet told a news conference.

She also said that Biden would give a lot of priority to human rights, to multilateralism, and go back to the Paris Agreement, the global pact to fight climate change.

Biden has said he plans to revitalise DACA, or the so-called"Dreamers" programme, created by Obama that protects people from deportation and grants work permits to hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the United States unlawfully after arriving as children.

Trump has tried to end the programme, but a judge last week ordered the US government to reopen the programme to first-time applicants.

Bachelet, referring to Biden, said: "He has made a series of promising pledges like the protection for child arrivals - and I think that's fantastic that they will stop the family separation - and of course all the issues with the frontier, the border with Mexico.

"If those pledges are implemented, I think they will have a positive impact on human rights in the US and globally. They could also reverse policies carried out in the Trump administration which have led to serious setbacks for human rights including the rights of women, of LGBT persons, migrants or journalists," she said.

Bachelet also said she regretted that five people including one woman are scheduled to be executed at the federal level by Jan 15, before Biden is scheduled to take office.

Trump's administration resumed carrying out executions earlier this year after a 17-year hiatus.

"So we call for prompt review of all federal death row cases to avoid arbitrary or discriminatory application of the death penalty," she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.