Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called on the United Nations (UN) to initiate a global campaign to end the criminalisation of same sex relationships.

The proposal comes on the day that world leaders descended upon New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly, and coincides with the warning by UN General Secretary Kofi Annan that ”if current patterns of alienation and violence persist much longer, there is a grave danger that the Iraqi state will break down, possibly in the midst of a full-scale civil war.”

Currently active in Iraq are death squads which reportedly seek out lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people whom if caught face the likelihood of being beaten and burnt to death.

Mr Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk ”currently 80 member states of the UN have total prohibition of same sex relationships, with penalties ranging from a few years in prison, to life imprisonment and even execution”. He described this homophobic persecution as a ”hangover from medievalism which has no place in any country in the twenty first century”.

In 1994 the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that the criminalisation of consenting same sex relations was a violation of the fundamental human rights by which they abide. Yet despite this ruling over 12 years ago there has been little progress in the ending of widespread homophobic persecution across the globe in countries such as Iran, Iraq, and areas of Africa.