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Wednesday 09 November 2016

UN expert on LGBTI rights may lose his job

Posted in: International News
By - 7th November 2016

The United Nations’ new independent expert on LGBTI rights may lose his job as the General Assembly prepares to vote on an unprecedented resolution to undo the position, a proposal that “threatens the authority of the Human Rights Council”.

The General Assembly will vote this Tuesday on a resolution put forward by Sierra Leone on behalf of the 54-member Group of African States that aims to put an end to the newly created role of independent expert on sexual and gender minorities.

The resolution proposes to “defer consideration” of the Human Rights Council’s decision to create a LGBTI expert “in order to allow time for further consultations to determine the legal basis” of the role. Voting on the appointment of an independent expert by the General Assembly has only occurred once before according to diplomats, but this was related to which branch of the UN the expert would be stationed at, not the subject matter of the position.

Human Rights expert and law professor from Thailand, Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn was appointed by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and is meant to serve in the position for three years.

His tasks include assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and gaps, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.

Buzzed reports that a UN diplomat who works in human rights and who wished to stay anonymous as he was not authorised to speak to press says the “proposal threatens the authority of the Human Rights Council and the integrity of the entire special procedures system” that governs the body. If the General Assembly “is going to try to re-litigate decisions taken by the Council then any number of other mandates could be unpicked.”

Deputy United Nations director for Human Rights Watch Akshaya Kumar told Buzzed that “The reason they’re doing it is to single out this one mandate and cast aspersions on its credibility.

“That would both undermine the bigger system about how [Human Rights Council appointments] work all the time.”

All 54 members of the Group of African States agreed to challenge the position, including South Africa who withheld its support for the role despite introducing the first LGBTI rights resolution in the Human Rights Council in 2011.

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