The ICJ today condemned efforts by a group of States led by the African Group of the UN Members States to halt the work of the UN Independent Expert charged with protecting people from discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
The organization said that the move constituted an unwarranted interference with the independence and capacity of the Human Rights Council to discharge its mandate for the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination.
On 3 November 2016 Botswana on behalf of the African Group introduced a draft resolution before the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York questioning the authority for the mandate of the Independent Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn (photo) and deferring action indefinitely on confirming the mandate’s establishment.
The ICJ is calling on the African Group to withdraw its draft resolution.
If a vote on the resolution does go ahead, the ICJ said that States must resoundingly reject it and send a signal to the world that the rights of all persons must be protected on an equal basis and that the UN Human Rights Council is capable of acting to secure such protection.
The ICJ considers that adoption of the resolution would represent a dramatic setback to the Human Rights Council’s efforts to tackle violence and discrimination based on SOGI.
Each year, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly considers the Human Rights Council’s annual report.
This year, that report contains Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Human Rights Council’s adoption of resolution 32/2 on 30 June 2016 made history by establishing the first-ever mandate of an Independent Expert of the Human Rights Council on protection against violence and discrimination based on SOGI.
In September this year the Human Rights Council appointed Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand to discharge this mandate.
Since then, Prof. Muntarbhorn has duly taken up his position and has begun fulfilling this work.
The draft resolution that the African Group has tabled at the Third Committee questions the basis in international law for the establishment of the Independent Expert’s mandate on SOGI and seeks to defer action on Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 indefinitely.
Since the Human Rights Council was set up in 2006, none of its resolutions mandating the establishment of a Special Procedure has ever been challenged by the General Assembly.
The ICJ considers that the adoption of the African Group’s resolution would set an extremely detrimental and regressive precedent by blocking the Human Rights Council from carrying out its own mandate.
It would undermine the UN’s preeminent human rights body’s overall authority by sapping its independence and ability to fulfil its mandate for the promotion and human rights for all without discrimination as it sees fit.
Livio Zilli, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative, t: +41 22 979 38 23 ; e: livio.zilli(a)icj.org