UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has chosen former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to be the world body's new human rights chief, five diplomats told Reuters news agency.
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed told a group of ambassadors about the decision on Tuesday, diplomats said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday, as no official announcement has been made.
Guterres' spokesman Farhan Haq did not confirm the selection of Bachelet as the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, the job's official title.
If confirmed, Bachelet's appointment needs to be approved by the 193-member UN General Assembly.
If she is chosen, she would replace Jordan's Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, who is stepping down at the end of the month after one four-year term in the Geneva-based job.
Zeid is well-known as an outspoken critic of world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
"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.
Bachelet, a victim of torture under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, was conservative Chile's first female leader.
Pediatrician and socialist
The pediatrician and socialist was in office from 2006 to 2010 and 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 recognised ability to create consensus."
Born in Santiago, Bachelet was studying medicine when she was held by Pinochet's political police for several weeks.
After her release, she went into exile with her mother to Australia and then moved to East Germany.
Bachelet returned to Chile in 1979, but was prevented from working as a doctor for political reasons. She continued studying, specialising in paediatrics and public health.
After democracy was restored to Chile in 1990, Bachelet worked for the health ministry and in 2000 was appointed health minister followed by defence minister four years later.
After her mandate she was named by the Forbes Magazine the world's most influential woman.