A United Nations panel has deleted a reference to gays and lesbians in a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

The motion was introduced by Morocco and Mali and the vast majority of countries in support were African or Arabic.

Many of the supporting countries criminalise homosexuality and five treat it as a capital offence.

The amendment called for the words “sexual orientation” to be replaced with “discriminatory reasons on any basis”. The resolution makes explicit reference to a large number of groups, including human rights defenders, religious and ethnic minorities and street children.

It narrowly passed 79-70 and was then approved by the UN General Assembly committee with 165 in favour and ten abstentions.

The amendment, which condemns extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions and other killings, is voted on by the UN General Assembly every two years.

It has contained a reference to sexual orientation for the last ten years.

Cary Alan Johnson, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said: “This vote is a dangerous and disturbing development.

“It essentially removes the important recognition of the particular vulnerability faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – a recognition that is crucial at a time when 76 countries around the world criminalise homosexuality, five consider it a capital crime, and countries like Uganda are considering adding the death penalty to their laws criminalising homosexuality.”