The ICJ condemns the deliberate misrepresentation of international human rights law

The ICJ today condemned the misrepresentation of international human rights law by some member States of the UN Human Rights Council.

At the Panel on discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, held today at the Human Rights Council, Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group) and Senegal (on behalf of the African Group) claimed that “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” were new concepts that had no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument. These States further claimed that introducing such concepts undermine the human rights framework.

At the beginning of the Panel, the OIC delegations expressed their opposition by walking out of the Human Rights Council. Some of these delegations later returned to the Council.

The ICJ says that such statements are a deliberate mischaracterization of international human rights law and further warns that the denial of the universal nature of human rights threatens the human rights framework.

“It is regrettable that some delegations are unwilling even to engage in a discussion about discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor at the ICJ. “The Human Rights Council should be a place where all human rights issues may be debated.”

It has long been recognized by UN human rights experts, including the treaty monitoring bodies and the special rapporteurs and working groups of the Human Rights Council, that international human rights law forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the ICJ adds.

“Discrimination is not a new concept,” Jernow said. “The right to be free from discrimination is the cornerstone of the international human rights framework.”

The ICJ points out that the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deliberately wrote an open-ended list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

“They recognized that the nature of discrimination varies according to context and evolves over time,” Jernow added.

Pakistan and other States maintained that the right to be free from discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity was not part of “universally recognized” human rights. Their position is contrary to international human rights law, the ICJ stresses.

“Human rights are universal,” Jernow said. “That means that everyone, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, is entitled to the full range of all human rights, including the rights to life, to be free from arbitrary detention, to security of person and protection from torture. These rights belong to all of us.”

At the panel, the High Commissioner presented the results of her study documenting discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Human rights experts discussed human rights abuses in their regions, such as torture and ill-treatment, including rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings. They also addressed the obstacles that prevent States from discharging their duties to protect, respect and fulfill all rights.The panel was held pursuant to a resolution introduced by South Africa and adopted last June at the Council.

Many states spoke in favour of the report and the panel, including Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, Thailand, Australia, the EU countries and more.

For further information, please contact:

Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor, ICJ, c + 33 687 48 04 79; e-mail: allison.jernow(at)

Olivier van Bogaert, Media & Communications Senior Officer, ICJ, t + 41 22 979 38 08; e-mail: olivier.vanbogaert(at)


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