Updated 28 June
Egypt’s chief diplomatic representative to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva declared last week at a meeting about the universal right to association that gays do not warrant protections and are considered not to be “real people” in the Middle East.
The liberal Egyptian web news outlet Bikya Masr first reported on Omar Shalaby’s homophobic remarks.
According to a transcription of Mr Shalaby’s presentation, he said: “Finally, concerning the highly controversial notion of sexual orientation, we can only reiterate that it is not part of the universally recognized human rights.”
Last year, US Sectary of State Hillary Clinton, however, told the UN body in Geneva that “It should never be a crime to be gay.” Mrs Clinton told the diplomats in Geneva in December that: “Gay rights are human rights.”
Mr Shalaby further stated: “We call on Mr Kiai [UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association] not to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of his important work in the eyes of real people who actually need it, especially in regions where such concepts are rejected by both its Christian and Muslim inhabitants like the Middle East.”
The UN webcast of Mr Shalaby’s anti-gay comments can be viewed here.
In an email statement to PinkNews.co.uk on Wednesday, Klaus Jetz, the executive director of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association, wrote: “LGBT rights are human rights, they are universal and indivisible. They apply to LGBT people all over the world and to LGBT people in Egypt as well, they are not negotiable. Denying human rights to LGBT people means attacking human rights.”
PinkNews.co.uk emails seeking a comment from Egypt’s embassy and consulate in Germany were not immediately returned. Egypt’s government has over the years severely cracked down on gay life in the country, including mass show trials of men to ratchet up a climate of fear against sexual minorities. According to Human Rights Watch, twenty-three men were convicted in 2001 in a “politically motivated trial” for their alleged sexual orientation.
Though homosexuality is ostensibly not legally codified as a crime, there are widespread anti-gay barriers in Egypt that prevent the free expression of the LGBT community.
Update: The UN Human Rights Council told PinkNews.co.uk: “The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body which provides a space for a wide range of views from States, NGOs, civil society and other participants. The comments made by the Egyptian delegate on 21 June during a discussion on a report of the Special Rapporteur on peaceful assembly, Maina Kiai, expressed the views of the Egyptian delegation, and should certainly not be interpreted as an endorsement by the Council as a whole.
“In fact, the Council has been very vocal on this issue on several recent occasions through which the majority of its members expressed strong support for additional national policies and programmes to combat discrimination against LGBT persons on various levels. Following a landmark decision by the Council last June recognizing the rights of LGBT persons, and a subsequent study produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in December on this issue, the Council held a panel discussion in March which marked the first-ever discussion on the issue at the UN in a formal intergovernmental setting.”
Critics of the UN body say that totalitarian countries like the Islamic Republic of Iran, which enforces lethal penalties targeting gays, have trampled over the notion of protecting LGBT rights at the UN.
Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based investigative reporter and a Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.