Current Affairs

Islamic influence on UN Human Rights Council worries humanists

Tony Grew May 15, 2008
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The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) has written to Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown about the activities of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.


It is concerned that the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council is being undermined by the presence of Islamic nations on the council.

Last year 54 member states of the UN Human Rights Council asked the council to act against violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 

GALHA highlighted a resolution passed in March on the defamation of religions as evidence of theocratic states undermining human rights principles.


56 countries are members of the OIC.


“As you may know, 17th May marks the International Day Against Homophobia,” wrote David Christmas, secretary of GALHA.


“We are taking the opportunity offered by this global spirit of action to urge you to take action on what many now regard as the subversion of the UN Human Rights Council by nations associated with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.


“Along with countless others, we are gravely concerned by these developments and our concerns our greatly increased by the fact that the nations making up the OIC are responsible for the most flagrant abuses of the human rights of LGBT people, persecuting and executing LGBT Muslims and non-Muslims within their own borders.


“We urge the UK Government to stand up for the human rights of all people, including LGBT people and especially those condemned by an accident of birth to live in nations where their sexual orientation is a cause of state violence towards them.


“We also urge the UK Government to ensure that legitimate and free criticism of this barbarism is not silenced by bogus claims that human rights can be used to protect religiously motivated bigots from the international censure they deserve.”

Last year to mark IDAHO Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney affirmed Britain’s commitment to the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

He announced the development of a new UK strategy on international LGBT rights.

There are 77 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal, and in nine countries the death penalty is used as a punishment.

Mr McCartney revealed that the UK government is developing a strategy for promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBT people overseas.

“We can mark this milestone by speaking up for those millions around the world who are branded as criminals simply for being who they are,” he said.

“I look forward to working in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders to develop our strategy.”

In an addition to efforts on decriminalisation Mr McCartney set out 5 other areas where UK action can make a difference: non-discrimination in the application of human rights; support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders; health and health education; raising LGBT issues at international / multilateral institutions and bilateral engagement with key countries.

However, in February junior Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Meg Munn told MPs the idea of an international treaty or convention on the human rights of LGBT people is not feasible.

“The government judge that there is not sufficient consensus globally to justify pursuing an international convention at present; though it is willing to work for the engagement of countries which would produce a worthwhile such instrument,” she said.

“In the meantime, the government consider that it can pursue equality and non-discrimination through existing human rights mechanisms, through multilateral action with like-minded partners and bilaterally.

“The government consider engaging positively in any mechanism which promote these rights.”



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