Foreign Secretary urged to defend UN’s LGBT rights expert amid plot to axe role

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Meets With United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been urged to defend the UN’s first ever independent expert on LGBT issues, as he faces the axe.

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 was handed the role last month, beginning to investigate abuse that the global LGBT community suffer.

However, over the weekend it emerged that the Group of African States plan to bring forward a resolution at the General Assembly on Tuesday that would revoke Mr Muntarbhorn’s position, in an attempt to prevent LGBT rights from being considered as human rights within the UN.

Ahead of tomorrow’s vote, Sarah Champion, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, urged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to lobby support in favour of keeping the watchdog role.

She wrote: “I am extremely concerned that African nations are now seeking to initially suspend the U.N’s first independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“You will of course understand the strong imperative for such a role to exist and the very real implications for LGBT individuals all over the world who continue to be subject to the most appalling and systemic discrimination, hatred and violence.

“According to a UN human rights report last year, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalise and target people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including laws criminalising consensual same-sex relationships among adults.

“Last month (October 2016), the ILGA (the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) published the 11th edition of its report: ‘State-sponsored homophobia A world survey of sexual orientation laws: Criminalisation, protection and recognition’.

“This report provides a global overview of LGBT legislation, the specific laws in those states where homosexuality is criminalised. as well as examples of when the legislation has been used against individuals. The report highlights the sheer scale and severity of often state sanctioned discrimination and violence against LGBT individuals and communities.

“It is therefore imperative that the UN is able to properly investigate and bring to light these human rights abuses The position of the LGBT independent expert is clearly critical in the UN’s ability to fulfil this role.

“Graeme Reid, director of the Human Rights Watch LGBT Program has said that the language used in the resolution being brought forward tomorrow is “insidious” because “the implication is that LGBT rights don’t belong in the human rights system at all.

“In addition to these human rights concerns. the proposed motion also sets a worrying precedent for the UN Human Rights committee to be overruled.

“The General Assembly has only once before voted to overturn a Human Rights Council resolution and continued action in this vein will do little than to ultimately undermine the Human Rights Council’s authority to investigate and act on specific human rights abuses.

“In light of the above I would be grateful if you would urgently provide an answer in your response to the following questions:

“1. What steps the UK government is taking to ensure the continuation of the post and work of the independent UN LGBT expert

“2. What is the government’s position in relation to the motion and whether this position has been made clear to other member states ahead of the potential vote tomorrow

“3. An outline of positive work being undertaken by the government to promote LGBT rights abroad both through the UN and in regular interactions with individual nation states

“4. Whether you intend to make your view on the Africa Group motion public and whether you will make a statement to the House

“The proposed resolution could have a very real chance of passing as it only needs 97 votes to carry. It is already backed by the 54-member Africa Group who raised the vote, and is assumed to have the support of most nations within the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — which could mean up to 20 more votes in support of the resolution.

“The action of the UK and our diplomatic allies is therefore critical in whether this vital piece of work into investigating and bringing to light LGBT human rights abuses across the globe can continue.”