Thursday, March 8, 2012

Large group of Ambassadors walk out of UN meeting in Geneva

The Human Rights Council (HRC) in its ongoing attempt to expand universally accepted human rights norms, to include sexual orientation and gender identity, arranged a Panel discussion at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Wednesday March 7th.

The panel discussion under the heading “Ending Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and Gender Identity” resulted from a resolution introduced by South Africa, last June, which called for the preparation of a report on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and the holding of a panel discussion.  During the June negotiations some countries wanted to set out their complete agenda however they were advised that to make progress they would need to be patient and to limit the resolution to the issue of discrimination in order to get it approved.  All attempts at balance in the preparation of the report, which issued in December were ignored. There were also attempts to ensure that the panel would be balanced however the panel selected was one sided.
The Ambassadors from both the OIC and the Arab Group sent a powerful message to the panel by staging a walkout once the session began leaving only those delegates who were chosen to deliver their group statements, and they too left once their strongly expressed statements had been delivered.

Given that there is no excuse for violence against any person or group for any reason whatsoever and that this is stated in the International Bill of Rights consisting of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants enacted there under, there is no need for any additional legislation in respect of any group. 

Additionally there is no agreement on the meaning of the terms sexual orientation and gender identity and a clear divide was evident during the discussion, Western nations such as the US and EU together with Canada Australia and a variety of South American countries favour the expansion of rights while The Organization of Islamic States (OIC) and the Arab group of states together with the vast majority of African States, The Russian Federation and the Holy See reject the concept of establishing new so called rights.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon via a video link told the meeting that lives are at stake that there is a duty to protect rights everywhere.  There is he said, widespread violence against this community and that they are imprisoned and tortured. Addressing them directly he said, “LBGT people you not alone this is a shared struggle” and he then called on everyone to stand with him. Mr. Ban spoke of the need to educate the public to bring about change and that he counts on the Human Rights Council to make it happen

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillay told the meeting that the important issue in this case were Principles of universality and non discrimination and that the study had shown three main difficulties, first the enactment of discriminatory laws, second the criminalization of sex between consenting adults leading in some countries to imprisonment and thirdly a pattern of violence is evident against homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals in all regions which in some cases is, accompanied by high levels of brutality

The session was addressed by members of the panel before it was thrown open for general debate, Irina Karla Bacci (Brazil): Vice-President, National Council for LGBT Persons, Brazil, Laurence Helfer (USA): Co-Director, Center for International and Comparative Law, Duke University, USA, Hina Jilani (Pakistan): chair, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; former Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hans Ytterberg (Sweden): Chairperson of the Council of Europe Expert Committee on Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

During the debate, which ensued the Pakistani delegate Saeed Sarwar on behalf of the OIC Group told the meeting
"The OIC Member States would like to record their consistent and firm opposition to the subject under discussion in the work of the Human Rights Council. Our opposition stems from the fact that controversial notions such as “sexual orientation” are vague and misleading and have no agreed definition and no legal foundation in international law. The international community only recognizes those rights that are enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which were codified in subsequent international human rights instruments.

Thus, we strongly condemn systematic attempts by a Group of States to introduce the notion of “sexual orientation” in the United Nations system in general and in the universally agreed human rights framework in particular. These attempts not only distort the intent of the drafters and signatories to these human rights instruments, but also seriously jeopardize the internationally agreed human rights framework."
 Mr Sarwar also told the meeting that 
"The OIC Member States consider that all people are entitled to the enjoyment of human rights and that sexual orientation does not confer special status in this respect. Our opposition to the notion of sexual orientation also stems from the fact that it may encompass the social normalization, and possibly the legitimization, of many deplorable acts, including pedophilia and incest." 
The Holy See attempted to make a statement but they were placed so far down the list of speakers that the meeting was over before their turn came. In addition a group of Pro-Family, Pro-life NGO’s, which included the society for the protection of unborn children (SPUC), sought to make a statement but once again only NGO’s who are pro the gay agenda were called. Ambassador Dupuy Laserre however advised that all statements would be included on the HRC extranet