At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva 85 countries joined a Joint Statement entitled "Ending Acts of Violence and Related Human Rights Violations Based On Sexual orientation and Gender Identity." This follows previous statements on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons issued at the United Nations, including a 2006 statement by 54 countries at the Human Rights Council and a 2008 statement that has garnered 67 countries' support at the General Assembly. The United States is amongst the signatory states to both previous efforts. The United States co-chaired the core group of countries that have worked to submit this statement, along with Colombia and Slovenia.
Key facts about the new statement:
- A core group of over 30 countries engaged in discussions and sought signatories from the other UN member states for the statement. In many places, United States diplomats joined diplomats from other states in these conversations.
- This statement adds new references not seen in previous LGBT statements at the UN, including welcoming attention to LGBT issues as a part of the Universal Periodic Review process, noting the increased attention to LGBT issues in regional human rights fora, encouraging the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue addressing LGBT issues, and calls for states to end criminal sanctions based on LGBT status.
- 20 countries joined this statement that were neither signatory to the 2006 or 2008 statements.
- The statement garnered support from every region of the world, including 21 signatories from the Western Hemisphere, 43 from Europe, 5 from Africa and 16 from the Asia/Pacific region.
The full list of signatories and the text of the statement follows:
Joint Statement on ending acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity
Delivered by Colombia on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former-Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ukraine, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Venezuela.
- We recall the previous joint statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, presented at the Human Rights Council in 2006;
- We express concern at continued evidence in every region of acts of violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity brought to the Council's attention by Special Procedure since that time, including killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions;
- We recall the joint statement in the general Assembly on December 18, 2008 on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, supported by States from all five regional groups, and encourage states to consider joining the statement;
- We commend the attention paid to these issues by international human rights mechanisms including relevant Special Procedures and treaty bodies and welcome continued attention to human rights issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity within the context of the Universal Periodic Review. As the United Nations Secretary General reminded us in his address to this Council at its Special Sitting of 25 January 2011, the Universal Declaration guarantees all human beings their basic rights without exception, and when individuals are attacked, abused or imprisoned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the international community has an obligation to respond;
- We welcome the positive developments on these issues in every region in recent years, such as the resolutions on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity adopted by consensus in each of the past three years by the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States , the initiative of the Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions to integrate these issues within the work of national human rights institutions in the region, the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the increasing attention being paid to these issues by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the many positive legislative and policy initiatives adopted by States at the national level in diverse regions;
- We note that the Human Rights Council must also play its part in accordance with its mandate to "promote universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without discrimination of any kind, and in a fair and equal manner" (GA 60/251, OP2);
- We acknowledge that these are sensitive issues for many, including in our own societies. We affirm the importance of respectful dialogue, and trust that there is common ground in our shared recognition that no-one should face stigmatisation, violence or abuse on any ground. In dealing with sensitive issues the Council must be guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination;
- We encourage the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to explore opportunities for outreach and constructive dialogue to enhance understanding and awareness of these issues within a human rights framework;
- We recognise our broader responsibility to end human rights violations against all those who are marginalised and take this opportunity to renew our commitment to addressing discrimination in all its forms;
- We call on States to take steps to end acts of violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, encourage Special Procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders to continue to integrate these issues within their relevant mandates, and urge the Council to address these important human rights issues.
Author's Note: It is interesting to see that five African nations are among this group on nations, even though I am somewhat bewildered that Sierra Leone in particular has signed this Statement, when laws criminalising same-sex acts are still in force in her territory. Is it reasonable, on the one hand, to express concern at the "continued evidence" of human rights violations, which you acknowledge include killings, rape, torture and criminal sanctions, while on the other hand, you uphold those same criminal sanctions that you so publicly disapprove of?
To my mind, this inconsistency only accentuates the absurdness of those archaic laws, their incompatibility with fundamental rights and freedoms and the urgent need for their repeal.
And also, although the above is the original text of the Statement as it appears here on the website of the US State Department, the links are mine.