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Attempt to remove UN’s LGBT rights expert defeated in narrow vote

Nick Duffy December 19, 2016

Another attempt to remove the United Nations expert on LGBT rights has been defeated.

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council voted in June to appoint an independent LGBT expert for the first time to monitor “violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” around the world.

Thai professor Vitit Muntarbhorn took up the role, beginning to investigate abuse that the global LGBT community suffer.

However a number of challenges have been brought by homophobic countries attempting to revoke his position – with a plot to axe the role thwarted by a narrow margin last month.

This week, the block of countries bitterly opposed to the role – including Russia, China and a number of African states – pushed a surprise amendment to the Human Rights Council’s annual report that would have indefinitely halted the work of the LGBT rights expert.

The amendment was voted down by a narrow margin, with 77 countries voting in favour and 84 against, with 16 abstentions.

870 human rights organisations from 157 countries around the world had signed an open letter urging the governments represented in the General Assembly to continue the expert’s work.

 

The result has been welcomed by the  International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

ILGA’s co-Secretaries General Helen Kennedy and Ruth Baldacchino said: “ILGA is delighted that the mandate has once again been safeguarded.

“Once more, States have reaffirmed the importance of monitoring human rights violations against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, a crucial leap towards a world where all are treated free and equal.”

André du Plessis, UN Programme and Advocacy Manager at ILGA explained: “We commend what human rights defenders from all over the world were able to do by highlighting the need for states to respect the authority of the Human Rights Council.

“This outcome is important not only because it shows that States believe that violence and discrimination faced by LGBT persons around the world deserve attention, but also because it confirms the authority of the UN Human Rights Council, the leading human rights body in the world.

“Never before had a country or group of countries attempted to challenge a special procedures mandate by the Human Rights Council with a fully functioning mandate holder.

“If the General Assembly would have reopened the Council’s annual report to block or defer resolutions with a selective approach, it would have fundamentally undermined the authority granted to the Council by the General Assembly, setting a dangerous precedent for the whole human rights framework.”

Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director at ILGA said: “We are confident that the SOGI Independent Expert will work to build bridges, rather than to widen the gaps between our communities and those who think that we are seeking ‘special rights’.

“Now more than ever, our communities need allies to ensure that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’ as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states, is a reality and not only a dream.”

More: Africa, Americas, baroness anelay, gender identity, Independent Expert, Sarah Champion, sexual orientation, UN

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