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'The time has come': Over 600 NGOs call on UNHRC to address violence against LGBTI people

Marchers hold a rainbow flag with photos of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting during the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 26, 2016
Marchers hold a rainbow flag with photos of the victims of the Orlando mass shooting during the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade in San Francisco, California, U.S. June 26, 2016

REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 27 June 2016.

[UPDATE: The top human rights body of the United Nations voted on 30 June to appoint an independent monitor to help protect gay and transgender people around the world from violence and discrimination. The vote passed only narrowly. Read more here.]

ARTICLE 19 today joined the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and 566 other organisations in an oral statement calling on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to create an Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to address violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and intersex people.

Among the multiple forms of violence and discrimination faced by LGBT and intersex people, the oral statement draws attention to repression of freedom of expression and association, as well as attacks and restrictions on human rights defenders.

The joint statement emphasises the importance of all States supporting the adoption of draft resolution A/HRC/32/L.2 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, currently being considered at the 32nd Session of the HRC. The draft resolution, tabled by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay, will, once adopted, establish an independent expert on sexual orientation or gender identity. This responds to long-standing calls from civil society in all parts of the world for the HRC to institutionalise the response to violence and discrimination against LGBT and intersex people.

An independent expert is a special procedure mandate of the UN Human Rights Council, similar to the mandate of a Special Rapporteur. The mandate holder, once appointed, will report annually to the HRC on violence and discrimination against LGBT and intersex people. They will also be able to engage with states to highlight best practices and encourage reforms to prevent and redress human rights violations and abuses against LGBT and intersex people.

International and regional mandate holders on freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly and human rights defenders have previously adopted a joint statement urging action from the Human Rights Council to protect and promote the rights of all people to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

They stressed that these rights are “essential in allowing individuals to claim other rights, in particular the rights to freedom from discrimination and equality before the law, and they can contribute to fostering public debate in society.”

The statement delivered by civil society organisations to the HRC is an important demonstration of global support for the creation of an independent expert. However, a number of states are likely to propose amendments to the resolution aimed at stripping it of all references to sexual orientation and gender identity, and to remove the language to create the mandate of independent expert. In addition, states may attempt to use the procedural “no action motion” to block consideration of the draft resolution. HRC Member States must oppose these tactics and amendments, and instead support the resolution as drafted.

ARTICLE 19 reiterates the words of Ban Ki Moon that “the time has come” for the HRC to act urgently in response to violence and discrimination against LGBT and intersex people, and establish an independent expert without further delay.

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