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Appeal to the United Nations General Assembly

Appeal to the United Nations General Assembly

Today we signed this Open Letter to the United Nations General Assembly on the Human Rights Council report, to express our concern regarding new attempts to obstruct the mandate of the UN Independent Expert to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Your Excellencies,

We are writing to urge you to reject the attempt by some States at United Nations General Assembly to defer consideration of parts of the United Nations Human Rights Council report.

As civil society organisations from all regions of the world, we look to the Human Rights Council for protection of the human rights of all. Every year, after much deliberation, debate and substantive negotiations, the Council adopts numerous resolutions, mandating panels, reports, Special Procedures, Commissions of Inquiry and other tools and mechanisms

The proposed resolution A/C.3/ 71/L.46 attempts to set a worrying precedent. If the Third Committee were able to reopen the Council’s annual report and select which resolutions it supports and which it seeks to block, even through the pretext of deferment, it would fundamentally undermine the authority granted to the Council by the General Assembly. In effect, this would open all Council resolutions up to renegotiation and debate at Third Committee every year, and have far-reaching implications well beyond the specific resolution currently under consideration.

While the proposed resolution specifically targets the creation by the Council at its June session of an Independent Expert to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the same reasoning could apply to undermine any decision validly taken by the Council at any time. The creation of a Special Procedure at the June session was fully within the mandate and authority of the Council. The decision was based on the findings in two reports A/HRC/19/41 and A/HRC/29/23 that the Council requested of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council concluded that protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity merited particular attention. A mandate-holder was appointed at the September session without a vote, and has already assumed office and commenced work as of 1st November 2016. There is no basis in the attempt to now prevent the mandate holder from continuing his important work.

The suggestion that there is a need to consider the legal basis for the mandate is clearly a pretext. Those States proposing further consideration of the legal basis have already issued public statements at the Council indicating that they don’t recognize and don’t intend to cooperate with the new mandate holder under any circumstances. The legal basis for the mandate is exactly the same as the legal basis on which all three sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) resolutions adopted by the Council were founded, including that presented by South Africa in 2011.

The establishment of the Independent Expert does not seek to create new standards, but simply to address within the existing framework provided by established international human rights law a protection gap for individuals facing violence and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Special Procedures mandates have been created in recent years by the Council focusing on systemic discrimination, marginalization and violations of a number of populations that have no explicit reference in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as persons with albinism and older persons.

We look to all states to uphold and defend the institutional integrity of the United Nations human rights system.

In November, NHC wrote this letter on the issue.