Michelle Bachelet
Michelle BacheletReuters

Outgoing UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday blasted Israel for failing to issue or renew visas for her staff to monitor the human rights situation in Palestinian Authority-assigned territories, AFP reported.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said it raised questions as to what Israel was "trying to hide" and vowed that her office would continue to report on the situation in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria.

"In 2020, the 15 international staff of my office in Palestine -- which has been operating in the country for 26 years -- had no choice but to leave," Bachelet said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"Subsequent requests for visas and visa renewals have gone unanswered for two years. During this time, I have tried to find a solution to this situation, but Israel continues to refuse to engage," she added.

Bachelet said that as a member state, Israel had to cooperate with the UN in good faith and allow its officials to carry out their duties.

"Israel's failure to process visa applications that are necessary for my staff's access is inconsistent with these standards," she charged.

She also said that Israel's treatment of her staff was part of a "wider and worrying trend to block human rights access" to PA-assigned territories.

"This raises the question of what exactly the Israeli authorities are trying to hide," she said.

Israel's mission in Geneva said in response it was "little surprise" that Bachelet was using her last hours in office "to once against attack Israel".

It said she had spent years "refusing to condemn violations of human rights by the Palestinians".

"The prevalence of bias against Israel in her office is well known, and her office's reports on Israel are unbalanced and prejudiced," the mission said.

"We hope that the next high commissioner will right the wrongs of Michelle Bachelet's time in office and finally commits to eliminating the bias against Israel at the Human Rights Council."

Tuesday’s comments come several weeks after Bachelet expressed "alarm" at the number of Palestinian Arabs killed during conflicts with Israeli forces in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza this year.

In particular, Bachelet noted the 19 Arab children who were killed during Operation Breaking Dawn, while failing to mention that most civilians in Gaza during that time were killed by Islamic Jihad rockets that missed their targets.

Bachelet had previously denounced plans by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria, calling the move “illegal”, and warning it could spark a new wave of violence in the region.

“Annexation is illegal. Period,” Bachelet said at the time.