Showing posts with label United Nations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United Nations. Show all posts

January 27, 2017

UN New LGBT Rights Monitor Should Investigate UN Members That Execute Gays

Intervention by UN Watch, at the first consultation of the Independent Expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, delivered at the United Nations, Geneva, 25 January 2017, by David Mendoza-Wolfson.
Professor Muntarbhorn,
UN Watch believes that your new mandate has the potential to save lives. We congratulate you on your appointment, and look forward to working together to ensure protection for the victims who need it most.
Of the five areas you identified as instrumental for protection, we believe decriminalization must be foremost, for upon this depend the others.
According to the latest 2016 report by the International Lesbian & Gay Association, in 72 countries, homosexuality is still illegal—and in 13 countries, same-sex acts are punishable by death.
According to that report: in Afghanistan, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Mauritania, in Pakistan, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, in Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, in Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Somalia, as well as those parts of Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State, consensual homosexual conduct is punishable by death. We note for the record that none of these countries were present for your consultation yesterday with UN member states.
Do you agree that your time and resources should prioritize victims of those 72 countries who still criminalize, flog, and imprison individuals on account of their sexual orientation?
Would you address as a first priority potential victims in the 13 countries that impose the death penalty?
Finally, given that some of these perpetrators are members of the United Nations human rights Council—including Qatar the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which recently began a three-year term—and that members are pledged to set an example and uphold the highest standards of human rights, would you consider making country visits to such places, or to visiting nearby countries to collect testimonies, in the event that they would refuse to allow you to visit?
Thank you, Professor.

December 19, 2016

UN 2nd Attempt Won to Not Stop LGBT Human Rights Investigations


 Supporters of gay rights have won a major victory at the United Nations with the failure of a second African attempt to stop a U.N. independent expert from investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

After a first defeat Nov. 21 in the General Assembly's human rights committee, African nations led by Burkina Faso attempted again Monday to suspend the work of the first LGBT expert. But the result was almost identical.

Those countries sought to delay implementation of a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution to determine "the legal basis" for the expert's mandate.

Opponents introduced an amendment to eliminate the call for a delay. It was adopted by a vote of 84-77 with 16 abstentions, virtually the same as the committee’s 84-77 vote with 12 abstentions.


December 2, 2016

First UN HR Investigator Promises Investigations into Abuses

The first-ever U.N. independent expert selected to examine violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people has vowed to forge ahead with wide-ranging investigations despite formidable opposition to his appointment in a U.N. vote.
"This mandate will cover every country under the sun and under the moon," Vitit Muntarbhorn said at a LGBT conference in Bangkok on Wednesday. "There can never be a political or legal vacuum in terms of protecting people."
This includes working with countries opposed to his appointment, Vitit said.
"We also have to cover not only peace, but war," he said, noting that members of the Islamic State group have reportedly killed people accused of being gay by throwing them off buildings.
Vitit's U.N. position was in peril last week when a group of African nations nearly derailed his appointment by the Human Rights Council, saying the U.N. was prioritizing LGBT issues over discrimination based on race or religion. Blocking a Human Rights Council appointee would be unprecedented, according to U.N. officials.
Vitit, who was appointed on Sept. 30 and has started his duties, faces a final vote in the U.N. General Assembly later this month but is expected to be approved. In the meantime, he says he will "just carry on with the work."
He is in charge of writing a U.N. report on violence against LGBT people, as well as receiving and responding to complaints of abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
To achieve these goals, he plans to visit a "balance" of developed and poorer countries in different regions.
"No entity, no authorities are monolithic," Vitit said. "We will find strands, advocacy of kindness, consideration, humanity, in pretty much every region, and we must use that well in terms of building the capacity to rationalize with those authorities that might not yet be open enough."
"You will always find someone, even among those governments, that are slightly more open to discussion," he added.
Along with Africa, opponents to Vitit's appointment include countries in the Middle East as well as China and Russia. At least 76 countries have laws in place that criminalize or discriminate against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a U.N. report last year.
In a fiery speech to hundreds of cheering gay rights supporters, Vitit emphasized the need for a wide, inclusive focus.
Vitit was previously a U.N. outside investigator into human rights in North Korea, which consistently denied his requests for meetings during his six years in the role.

November 7, 2016

African Govts.Trying to Rid of New UN Gay LGBT Rights Monitor

African nations are seeking to initially suspend and then get rid of the first U.N. independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Botswana's U.N. Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae said Friday that African nations want the General Assembly to delay consideration of a Human Rights Council resolution adopted on June 30 that authorized the appointment of an expert to monitor LGBT rights in order to discuss "the legality of the creation of this mandate."

Ntwaagae told the 193-member world body that a General Assembly resolution introduced by African nations seeking a delay also calls for suspending the activities of the first expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who was appointed on Sept. 30, pending a determination of the legality.

The assembly is expected to vote on the African resolution on Tuesday.

The Human Rights Council resolution establishing the LGBT expert was adopted by a vote of 23-18 with 6 abstentions, reflecting the deep divisions internationally on gay rights.

The U.N. has worked to improve the rights of the LGBT community in recent years but has repeatedly run into opposition from some member states — especially from countries in the Middle East and Africa as well as China and Russia. According to a U.N. human rights report last year, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.

Ntwaagae said African nations "are alarmed" that the Human Rights Council is delving into national matters and attempting to focus on people "on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors, while ignoring that intolerance and discrimination regrettably exist in various parts of the world, be it on the basis of color, race, sex or religion, to mention only a few."

African nations are also concerned that sexual orientation and gender identity are being given attention "to the detriment of issues of paramount importance such as the right to development and the racism agenda," he said.

Ntwaagae said African countries want to stress that sexual orientation and gender identity "are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments."

Muntarbhorn, a law professor who has been on the council's Commission of Inquiry on Syria and previously served as U.N. special investigator on North Korea and on child prostitution and child pornography, was given a wide mandate by the Human Rights Council for three years.

It includes looking at ways to overcome violence and discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, addressing the root causes, and working with states to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Sarah Mendelson expressed deep concern at the African resolution, telling the assembly that the Human Rights Council has approved numerous resolutions on people experiencing violence and discrimination, including those belonging to minority groups.

Mendelson said the African measure would have the General Assembly re-open a Human Rights Council mandate for the first time and could undermine the council's ability to function.

She urged the assembly to support an amendment expected to be introduced by Latin American and Caribbean nations that would remove the African call to delay the Human Rights Council resolution and suspend Muntarbhorn.

Francesca Cardona, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that countries must "protect the human rights of all individuals without distinction of any kind."

She said any attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the council resolution establishing the independent expert to protect against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity "has no legal foundation."

October 29, 2016

Russia Lost Seat on UN Human Rights Council

 Aleppo, Syria after a Russian bombing

[UN] Russia narrowly lost its seat on the main United Nations body devoted to human rights on Friday, signaling international dismay over the military power’s conduct in Syria.

The vote was to select countries to represent Eastern Europe on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Russia lost by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary. All 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted, and when the results were announced, there was a “small intake of air” in the large hall, said the New Zealand envoy, Gerard van Bohemen.

He said he believed that Russia’s conduct in the war in Syria, including the aerial bombardment of Aleppo, “must have played a part.”

The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, declined to answer a reporter’s question about whether Syria had anything to do with the vote. “We need a break,” he said.

Mr. Churkin said his country was more “exposed to the winds of international diplomacy” than the two countries from his region selected for the council.

The Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member nations, is sometimes described by critics as a rogues’ gallery of rights abusers. Current members include Burundi, China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

In Friday’s vote, both China and Saudi Arabia were re-elected, essentially unopposed for seats representing Asian countries. Britain and the United States were also re-elected, essentially unopposed.

In the contested races, Russia’s loss was the most significant.

It was the first time a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council had lost a seat on the Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental body established in 2006 to strengthen “the promotion and protection of human rights.” The council’s members are elected for three-year terms.

The United States previously experienced a similar blow. In 2001, it lost an election to the council’s predecessor, known as the Human Rights Commission. At the time, the Bush administration appeared surprised by the setback, which it attributed to contentious American positions on China, Cuba and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, said that “we left a little blood on the floor.”

The United States regained its seat on that body the next year.

In 2006, the United States also lost a seat on the International Law Commission. That was seen as a response to the Bush administration’s perceived repudiation of international law. That commission, though lesser known, usually writes first drafts of far-reaching global treaties.

The Human Rights Council is politically influential. Its responsibilities include establishing panels to investigate human rights abuses in specific countries. Human rights advocates had hoped that the council would impanel an inquiry into rights abuses in Yemen. It was vigorously opposed by Saudi Arabia, which was re-elected on Friday for another three-year seat.

“It’s hard to imagine the atrocities happening in Aleppo were not on the minds of those casting their ballots today,” said Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch, which had vigorously lobbied against both Russia and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The group called for competitive elections for all geographic blocs.

August 18, 2016

A Month Ago Rape, Murder Occurred Under UN Noses in S.Sudan, They Did Nothing


[NAIROBI, Kenya]  The soldier pointed his AK-47 at the female aid worker and gave her a choice.

"Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head," she remembers him saying.

She didn't really have a choice. By the end of the evening, she had been raped by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.
On July 11, South Sudanese troops, fresh from winning a battle in the capital, Juba, over opposition forces, went on a nearly four-hour rampage through a residential compound popular with foreigners, in one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in South Sudan's three-year civil war.

They shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people and carried out mock executions, several witnesses told The Associated Press.

For hours throughout the assault, the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile away refused to respond to desperate calls for help. Neither did embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

The Associated Press interviewed by phone eight survivors, both male and female, including three who said they were raped. The other five said they were beaten; one was shot. Most insisted on anonymity for their safety or to protect their organizations still operating in South Sudan. AP does not identify victims of sexual assault. 

The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes' drive away. U.N. peacekeepers in Juba have already been accused of not acting to stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.'s main camp and within their sight last month.

The attack on the Terrain hotel complex shows the hostility toward foreigners and aid workers by troops under the command of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, who has been fighting supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar since civil war erupted in December 2013. Both sides have been accused of abuses. The U.N. recently passed a U.S. resolution to send more peacekeeping troops to protect civilians.

 Image: Juba
In this photo taken on July 25, 2016, some of the more than 30,000 Nuer civilians sheltering in a United Nations base in South Sudan's capital Juba for fear of targeted killings by government forces walk by an armored vehicle and a watchtower manned by peacekeepers. Jason Patinkin / AP 
Army spokesman Lul Ruai did not deny the attack at the Terrain but said it was premature to conclude the army was responsible. "Everyone is armed, and everyone has access to uniforms and we have people from other organized forces, but it was definitely done by people of South Sudan and by armed people of Juba," he said.

A report on the incident compiled by the Terrain's owner at Ruai's request, seen by the AP, alleges that at least five women were raped, torture, mock executions, beatings and looting. An unknown number of South Sudanese women were also assaulted.

The attack came just as people in Juba were thinking the worst was over.

Three days earlier, gunfire had erupted outside the presidential compound between armed supporters of the two sides in South Sudan's civil war, at the time pushed together under an uneasy peace deal. The violence quickly spread across the city.

Throughout the weekend, bullets whizzed through the Terrain compound, a sprawling complex with a pool, squash court and a bar patronized by expats and South Sudanese elites. It is also in the shadow of the U.N.'s largest camp in Juba.

By Monday, the government had nearly defeated the forces under Machar, who fled the city. As both sides prepared to call for a cease-fire, some residents of the Terrain started to relax.

"Monday was relatively chill," one survivor said.

What was thought to be celebratory gunfire was heard. And then the soldiers arrived. A Terrain staffer from Uganda said he saw between 80 and 100 men pour into the compound after breaking open the gate with gunshots and tire irons. The Terrain's security guards were armed only with shotguns and were vastly outnumbered. The soldiers then went to door to door, taking money, phones, laptops and car keys.

"They were very excited, very drunk, under the influence of something, almost a mad state, walking around shooting off rounds inside the rooms," one American said.

One man wore a blue police uniform, but the rest wore camouflage, the American said. Many had shoulder patches with the face of a tiger, the insignia worn by the president's personal guard.

For about an hour, soldiers beat the American with belts and the butts of their guns and accused him of hiding rebels. They fired bullets at his feet and close to his head. Eventually, one soldier who appeared to be in charge told him to leave the compound. Soldiers at the gate looked at his U.S. passport and handed it back, with instructions.

"You tell your embassy how we treated you," they said. He made his way to the nearby U.N. compound and appealed for help.

Meanwhile, soldiers were breaking into a two-story apartment block in the Terrain which had been deemed a safe house because of a heavy metal door guarding the apartments upstairs. Warned by a Kenyan staffer, more than 20 people inside, most of them foreigners, tried to hide. About 10 squeezed into a single bathroom.

The building shook as soldiers shot at the metal door and pried metal bars off windows for more than an hour, said residents. Once inside, the soldiers started ransacking the rooms and assaulting people they found.
Some of the soldiers were violent as they sexually assaulted women, said the woman who said she was raped by 15 men. Others, who looked to be just 15 or 16 years old, looked scared and were coerced into the act.

"One in particular, he was calling you, 'Sweetie, we should run away and get married.' It was like he was on a first date," the woman said. "He didn't see that what he was doing was a bad thing."

After about an hour and a half, the soldiers broke into the bathroom. They shot through the door, said Jesse Bunch, an American contractor who was hit in the leg.

"We kill you! We kill you!" the soldiers shouted, according to a Western woman in the bathroom. "They would shoot up at the ceiling and say, 'Do you want to die?' and we had to answer 'No!'"

The soldiers then pulled people out one by one. One woman said she was sexually assaulted by multiple men. Another Western woman said soldiers beat her with fists and threatened her with their guns when she tried to resist. She said five men raped her.

During the attack on the Terrain, several survivors told the AP that soldiers specifically asked if they were American. "One of them, as soon as he said he was American, he was hit with a rifle butt," said a woman.

When the soldiers came across John Gatluak, they knew he was local. The South Sudanese journalist worked for Internews, a media development organization funded by USAID. He had taken refuge at the Terrain after being briefly detained a few days earlier. The tribal scars on his forehead made it obvious he was Nuer, the same as opposition leader, Riek Machar.

Upon seeing him, the soldiers pushed him to the floor and beat him, according to the same woman who saw the American beaten.

Later in the attack, and after Kiir's side declared a ceasefire at 6 p.m., the soldiers forced the foreigners to stand in a semi-circle, said Gian Libot, a Philippines citizen who spent much of the attack under a bed until he was discovered.

One soldier ranted against foreigners. "He definitely had pronounced hatred against America," Libot said, recalling the soldier's words: "You messed up this country. You're helping the rebels. The people in the U.N., they're helping the rebels."

During the tirade, a soldier hit a man suspected of being American with a rifle butt. At one point, the soldier threatened to kill all the foreigners assembled. "We're gonna show the world an example," Libot remembered him saying.

Then Gatluak was hauled in front of the group. One soldier shouted "Nuer," and another soldier shot him twice in the head. He shot the dying Gatluak four more times while he lay on the ground. 
"All it took was a declaration that he was different, and they shot him mercilessly," Libot said.

The shooting seemed to be a turning point for those assembled outside, Libot said. Looting and threats continued, but beatings started to draw to a close. Other soldiers continued to assault men and women inside the apartment block.

From the start of the attack, those inside the Terrain compound sent messages pleading for help by text and Facebook messages and emails.

"All of us were contacting whoever we could contact. The U.N., the U.S. embassy, contacting the specific battalions in the U.N., contacting specific departments," said the woman raped by 15 men.

A member of the U.N.'s Joint Operations Center in Juba first received word of the attack at 3:37 p.m., minutes after the breach of the compound, according to an internal timeline compiled by a member of the operations center and seen by AP.

Eight minutes later another message was sent to a different member of the operations center from a person inside Terrain saying that people were hiding there. At 4:22 p.m., that member received another message urging help.

Five minutes after that, the U.N. mission's Department of Safety and Security and its military command wing were alerted. At 4:33 p.m., a Quick Reaction Force, meant to intervene in emergencies, was informed. One minute later, the timeline notes the last contact on Monday from someone trapped inside Terrain.

For the next hour and a half the timeline is blank. At 6:52, shortly before sunset, the timeline states that "DSS would not send a team."

About 20 minutes later, a Quick Reaction Force of Ethiopians from the multinational U.N. mission was tasked to intervene, coordinating with South Sudan's army chief of staff, Paul Malong, who was also sending soldiers. But the Ethiopian battalion stood down, according to the timeline. Malong's troops eventually abandoned their intervention too because it took too long for the Quick Reaction Force to act.


The American who was released early in the assault and made it to the U.N. base said he also alerted U.N. staff. At around dusk, a U.N. worker he knew requested three different battalions to send a Quick Reaction Force.

"Everyone refused to go. Ethiopia, China, and Nepal. All refused to go," he said.

Eventually, South Sudanese security forces entered the Terrain and rescued all but three Western women and around 16 Terrain staff.

No one else was sent that night to find them. The U.N. timeline said a patrol would go in the morning, but this "was cancelled due to priority." A private security firm rescued the three Western women the staffers the next morning.

When asked why the U.N. peacekeeping mission didn't respond to the repeated requests for help, acting spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said the circumstances are under investigation.

"The peacekeepers did not venture out of the bases to protect civilians under imminent threat," Human Rights Watch said Monday in a report on abuses throughout Juba.

The U.S. Embassy, which also received requests for help during the attack, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The assault at the Terrain pierced a feeling of security among some foreigners who had assumed that they would be protected by their governments or the hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers almost next door.

One of the women gang-raped said security advisers from an aid organization living in the compound told residents repeatedly that they were safe because foreigners would not be targeted. She said: “This sentence, 'We are not targeted,' I heard half an hour before they assaulted us."

NBC News

August 26, 2015

ISIS Gay Victims Refugees Plea at Historic UN Security Council Meeting

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian refugee, speaks at the United Nations headquarters 
in New York, August 24. The U.N. Security Council held its first-ever meeting 
on LGBT rights on Monday. MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

Two gay refugees from Syria and Iraq testified Monday about the constant fear of violence and death they experienced living under authoritarian governments, militant groups and the Islamic State (ISIS) in the first-ever meeting on LGBT rights at the United Nations Security Council.

Their testimony was part of a closed session co-sponsored by U.S. and Chile, held to highlight the risk of violence faced by LGBT people in ISIS-held areas.

Homosexuality is generally not accepted in the cultures of many Middle Eastern and African countries which has led to the persecution of many in the LGBT communities. Protecting the rights of these groups is further complicated in areas where armed conflict is raging.
In Syria and Iraq, the presence of ISIS “has increased the vulnerability of millions…and further entrenched structural and cultural violence against women and [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] persons,” Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the Security Council on Monday. Stern urged U.N. agencies to create programs to assist LGBT people and for the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and governments to help resettle LGBT refugees.

ISIS is well-known for documenting their acts of brutality against anyone who violates their strict interpretation of Islamic tenets, including gay people. Since beginning their campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria in last year, ISIS has killed at least 30 people for “sodomy ” including by stoning, shooting them to death, beheading them and throwing them from the tops of building.

Monday’s session featured a disturbing slideshow of images depicting the killings of those accused of sodomy by ISIS between June 24, 2014 and August 2, 2015.

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian refugee, addressed the Council in person while “Adnan,” a gay Iraqi, spoke by phone from Lebanon, using a pseudonym for his own security. Nahas said he hoped his testimony would highlight the struggle faced by many LGBT youth in ISIS-besieged areas, while Adnan told the Security Council he had to leave a society where “being gay means death.”

“I was hoping that my message will prove that LGBT is not just a terminology invented by the West, but there is an LGBT community in the Middle East and in Africa and they stand together and they want their rights too,” Nahas told reporters outside the Security Council on Monday.

Nahas described how attacks on gay people in Syria ramped up in 2011 as rebel militias and armed groups, as well as Syrian government troops, arrested and beat gay men in bars, parks and other locations known for being frequented by LGBT people. In 2012, Nahas was arrested along with 11 others at a government checkpoint while on his way to university. He said he was held longer than the others as soldiers mocked him for being gay before letting him go after a few hours.

After his detention, Nahas went back home. His father became increasingly violent toward him and he was afraid to go out.

A few months later Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian militant group linked to Al-Qaeda, took control of Nahas’s hometown, Idlib, and vowed to cleanse the city “of everyone who was involved in sodomy,” Nahas said. “I was terrified that would be my fate,” Nahas told Newsweek on Tuesday.

“I knew I would face death if I didn’t do anything, so I contacted my friend in Lebanon and I arranged my escape there,” he said.

From Lebanon he went to Turkey—two countries with “lots of homophobia [that are] very narrow-minded,” although slightly better for LGBT people than Syria, said Nahas—then to San Francisco, where he has lived since June. Now Nahas works for the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), a policy group that helps resettle LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. In Turkey, he was threatened by ISIS operatives.

Nahas said he felt “very empowered” to address the Security Council. “We’re doing something really big,” he said.

My own family turned against me when [ISIS] was after me," said Adnan. "If [ISIS] didn't get me, members of my family would have done it."

Neil Grungras, founder and executive director of ORAM, says most LGBT refugees originate from the Middle East—namely Syria, Iraq and Turkey—and Africa—primarily Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

Members of the LGBT community "really fear persecution" as they “watch these horrendous sights of people being hurled off buildings,” Grungras said. "They won’t come out and request protection because they’re too afraid to tell anyone," he said.

According to ORAM, approximately 400 self-identified LGBT Syrian refugees live in Turkey, which is now home to nearly 2 million Syrian refugees. That number is likely much higher, but they are afraid to speak out, Grungras says. Fewer than 100 LGBT refugees are resettled in the U.S. every year, a number ORAM is trying to increase. Gay women are much less likely to seek refugee status than men, something Grungras puts down to women being less empowered, having less resources or, in many cases, needing their father's permission to travel or get a travel document.

Chad and Angola, two members of the 15-member council, did not attend Monday’s meeting, according to diplomats who spoke with the Associated Press, although their reasons for doing so were unclear. Being gay is illegal in Angola, and while homosexuality is legal in Chad, the country’s government is seeking to outlaw it. The remaining members of the council made statements at the meeting, except for Russia, China, Malaysia and Nigeria.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., spoke with the media after the Security Council session, which she called “a very moving meeting and “a sign that this issue is getting injected into the mainstream at the United Nations.”

March 26, 2015

India Votes with Russia Against UNWorkers and Gay Marriage :} UN Still Will Recognize Gay Marriages


India votes with anti-gay powers but UN can recognise same-sex marriages now

 India voted with Russia, China, Syria, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia at the General Assembly but could not block a proposal to recognize gay marriages and relationships for UN officials.
 India’s Gay Spa
The loss means the UN will recognize same-sex marriages involving its officials and diplomats of Indian nationality and extend diplomatic privileges to their spouses, even though such unions are not legal in India, Indian diplomats posted at the body's New York headquarters confirmed late this evening.

The senior officials said it was not immediately clear if the UN resolution would require India to legally recognize gay partners of foreign UN diplomats based here. 
If it does, at least three gay UN diplomats here are likely to bring their partners to New Delhi to become the first-ever same-sex couples legally acknowledged by the Indian government, officials at the foreign office and the UN said.

"It's a great day not just for same-sex couples, but for all those who believe in equality cutting across sexual orientations," a UN diplomat said. "Hopefully, it will also nudge India and other countries to relax its own domestic laws."
India and China were among 44 countries that voted against a UN proposal to extend to gay couples diplomatic privileges available to spouses and partners of heterosexual diplomats. Russia had moved the vote to block the resolution.
The resolution was, however, cleared since 80 nations voted in favour, with 37 abstentions and 33 countries absenting themselves. It will not help non-UN foreign diplomats posted in India.

India does not recognise gay marriages and has for years refused to extend diplomatic privileges to gay partners of foreign diplomats posted here, citing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that bars homosexual acts. Diplomatic privileges, detailed under two UN conventions from the 1960s, include access to diplomatic passports, tax-free earnings, cars with diplomatic licences, and a slew of smaller concessions.
The UN, till now, has followed a policy of allowing each country to extend those diplomatic privileges to the spouses and partners of UN officials - both foreigners and those of that country's nationality - that are in line with its domestic laws.
That policy also included different privileges for different employees based on their nationality. A gay Indian national working at the UN could not, for instance, receive the same privileges and benefits for his or her partner even if posted in a nation where same-sex marriages are legal.
But last June, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon had announced that the body would move towards extending equal benefits to all diplomatic partners.
India today argued Ban’s decision was taken without consultation with other nations to explain a rare vote at the UN General Assembly where India and Pakistan were on the same side.

"It was that unilateral decision that was the main reason for our vote," external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said. "This is not a simple matter."
For India, the UN resolution has thrown up a clutch of challenges, with no easy solutions.
While the resolution does not mean an Indian national working at the UN can register a gay marriage in India, his diplomatic passport will now reflect his same-sex marriage if registered in a country where it is recognised. His partner’s passport will also carry details of the marriage recognised by the UN.

"What do we do when they come to India - recognise them or treat them as freaks?" an Indian official wondered. "Will they, in India, be allowed to treat each other as legal heirs or dependents, just as an example? We don't know. We'll have to figure this out."
If the UN resolution also means that India will need to legally recognise gay partners of UN diplomats based here, the challenge gets compounded, officials said.
First, India will then need to figure out a way to extend full diplomatic privileges to spouses and partners of gay UN diplomats without violating its own law. Section 377, struck down by Delhi High Court in 2009, was re-instated by the Supreme Court in 2013. A larger top court bench is hearing petitions on the law.

Second, India will have to devise a larger justification if it intends to continue its past posture with diplomats of other foreign missions. Till now, New Delhi has been arguing that it simply cannot bend the law.
"The question we will be asked is that if we can bend rules for UN diplomats, why can't we do the same for others," an Indian official said.
But quietly, some Indian diplomats are hoping the UN decision propels a review in New Delhi of how to treat other gay foreign diplomats.
"It's a constant headache for us to fight the perception of a socially backward state when we meet such diplomats, and it doesn't help with our foreign policy," a second diplomat said. "Frankly, it's a baggage we're carrying."
A gay World Health Organisation diplomat who had lived with his partner in four other nations previously, was, for instance, forced to come to India alone, because of the earlier UN rule.
"What India needs to realise is that its policy is driving away diplomats who otherwise love this country," he had told this correspondent once, over a cup of coffee in his office. “For every one like me, who makes this sacrifice, there are many who simply will not."


August 30, 2014

UN Releases Scathing report on US Police Brutality and Racism

Demonstrators march against police brutality in San Francisco in 2013. Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes
Demonstrators march against police brutality in San Francisco in 2013.
 Photo by Flickr user Steve Rhodes
The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has published a scathing report analyzing the current state of racial justice in the United States. Citing the August 9th shooting of 18 year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and the rise of stand-your-ground laws, the committee expressed deep concerns about the ways in which the American justice system handles racially-charged events.
African Americans across the country, the CERD explained in a press conference, bear a disproportionate amount of the burden associated with economic and social disparity.
“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.” said CERD vice chairman Noureddine Amir. “Racial and ethnic discrimination remains a serious and persistent problem in all areas of life from de facto school segregation, access to health care and housing.”
Despite denials from its mayor, Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb in which Michael Brown was shot by a white police officer, has been noted for the stark racial divide that exists between its residents and its public servants. As a whole 67% of Ferguson’s population is black and 29% is white, a stark contrast to Ferguson’s police department, which is 94% white. In 2013 blacks accounted for 86% of all traffic stops in Ferguson and were two times as likely to be searched compared to whites.
“[We remain] concerned at the practice of racial profiling of racial or ethnic minorities by law enforcement officials,” the committee wrote, “including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration, border enforcement officials and local police.”
In addition to explicitly excessive police brutality, the report elaborated, pervasive forms of infrastructural discrimination posed significant threats to minority enfranchisement. Gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and racial profiling were called out specifically as examples of the American legal system being used to harm minority communities.

July 10, 2014

UN Bites the hand that feeds

Maybe it’s not impossible to sue an aid agency, but it’s damn difficult. Sometimes it requires a stakeout.
Outside Manhattan’s Asia Society last week, process servers lay in wait. Their quarry: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the evening’s speaker. Cars with diplomatic plates rolled up. Ban emerged. According to lawyer Stanley Alpert, one of the process servers joined a crowd of well-wishers, moved to shake Ban’s hand, and — bam! — instead served him a complaint by Haitian cholera victims against a U.N. peacekeeping force. The U.N. maintains that a security guard interceded and slapped the papers away before they touched Ban. Alpert maintains Ban got served.
Massive, well-publicized and terribly embarrassing for aid agencies, such lawsuits could change behavior — even if unsuccessful.
And the odd tableau reveals one of the great ironies of foreign aid: the very institutions that stand for rule of law, human rights and betterment of mankind are generally immune from courtrooms — even when they screw up mightily, as seems the case in Haiti. 
The vast weight of scientific evidence indicates that in October 2010, United Nations peacekeepers inadvertently contaminated a major river with the cholera bacteria. Since then, some 8,500 Haitians have died from cholera, according to the latest figures from the country’s health ministry, with more than 700,000 infected out of a population of just 10 million. At least three lawsuits on their behalf have been filed against the U.N. 
Massive, well-publicized and terribly embarrassing for aid agencies, such lawsuits could change behavior. Even if ultimately unsuccessful, they could force more circumspection and influence the course of development down the road, making it hew better to human rights principles, observers say. 
Man with UN helmet and many Haitians around him
Haiti’s strain of cholera was brought by Nepalese peacekeepers.
In March, an Ethiopian farmer, a  “Mr. O,” filed suit against Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID). Mr. O alleges that the British government supported an Ethiopian “villagisation” scheme that was supposed to settle 1.5 million people near roads and schools, but ended up forcibly displacing them, sending them to a refugee camp and selling their land to foreign investors. DFID has long been one of Ethiopia’s donors; it’s slated to spend some $600 million on the country in FY 2014-15. Mr. O’s lawyers seek a declaration that DFID violated its human rights policies and that it should investigate, publicize the investigation and ensure that DFID isn’t involved in repression. 
The suits are different — one alleges direct negligence, the other support for a repressive regime — but both will likely face an immunity challenge. The United Nations, most donors and NGOs enjoy some immunity for activities judged to be within the scope of their mission.
For the supposed beneficiaries of foreign aid, there’s little to do when aid horribly messes up.
But is polluting a river with a deadly bacteria an integral part of a peacekeeping mission? We would think not, but the U.S. government seems to think otherwise. In March, the Department of Justice intervened in the Haiti cholera case, arguing for a wide scope of immunity. It’s unlikely that the Southern District of New York, where the first suit was filed, will go forward. 
To be sure, immunity is not the sole reason few lawsuits are launched against aid agencies. “Litigation can be very lengthy — drawn-out, uncertain and above all costly,” says Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Executive Director of Accountability Counsel, which helps people harmed by big development projects. Her firm works outside court, typically through agencies’ internal dispute-resolution mechanisms. Accountability Counsel’s cases, which include labor violations cases in World Bank-funded projects and hydroelectric dam displacements, can be resolved in a year, rather than a decade, she says. “The [internal complaint] system is set up to not require lawyers — you could fill out a complaint on a napkin, and that’s the entry cost,” she says. 
Group of people around water with buckets doing laundry
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Critics of aid lawsuits sometimes liken such actions to biting the hand that feeds you. What right do beneficiaries of first-world largesse have to criticize? Such critics seem to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the notion that aid could do harm. 
It can and sometimes does. For the supposed beneficiaries of foreign aid, there’s little to do when aid horribly messes up — when it, say, relocates refugees to a toxic dump site, or when it contaminates waterways, or when it supports a repressive government that tortures its citizens. There’s no one to sue, there’s no one to vote out of office and there’s rarely even a complaints hotline. 
The Haiti and Ethiopia cases may change that. The time, cost and — perhaps most of all — negative publicity that accompanies such suits can affect day-to-day policy at big institutions. Right now, international financial institutions, like the World Bank and IMF, don’t merely argue they’re immune from lawsuits, but act like it, too, says Bridgeman Fields. “They don’t even like to use the words ‘human rights.’ To the extent there’s progress on the legal front, that could translate into due diligence and better compliance,” she says. 
In England, at least, the public seems more watchful about which regimes their tax dollars are supporting. In London, one hot topic at this month’s summit on ending sexual violence in conflict was whether DFID is underwriting human rights abuses by security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DFID has disbursed some $85 million of a pledged $102 million to the DRC’s security forces. 
Satisfaction might elude plaintiffs but maybe future recipients will thank them.

April 12, 2014

Gay Rights are Causing Fireworks at UN


Many countries at this week's U.N. population conference are objecting to the idea of enshrining the right of women to make their own sexual decisions, fearing it would tacitly condone same-sex relationships, the U.N. population chief said.
Gay rights emerged as an incendiary issue at the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, where country delegates are reviewing progress made since the adoption of a breakthrough action plan at the 1994 U.N. population conference in Cairo, Babatunde Osotimehin, head of the U.N. Population Fund, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
At the Cairo conference, 179 countries recognized for the first time that women have the right to control their reproductive and sexual health and to choose whether to become pregnant. While the conference broke a taboo on discussing sexuality, it stopped short of recognizing that women have the right to control decisions about when they have sex and when they get married.
Many states are trying to include such language in the final document of this week's population conference, which ends Friday. But Osotimehin said socially conservative countries are resisting the idea, arguing it would implicitly give people the right to enter in same-sex relationships.
Osotimehin is arguing such an interpretation is wrong. He said establishing the right of women to control their sexuality is crucial to fighting practices such as child marriage.
"It's about the conservatives saying that there is language there that is nuanced," he said. "We're saying there is no language nuanced. If we want to talk about it, we'll talk about it, but why do you think that every time we're talking about rights we're talking about LGBT rights?"
The resistance comes even though sexual rights for women — not just reproductive rights — was approved at another major world gathering back in 1995, the U.N. women's conference in Beijing. The platform adopted in Beijing will be reviewed on the 20th anniversary of that conference next year.
At both the Cairo and Beijing conferences, the Vatican and many predominantly Catholic and Muslim countries blocked any mention of lesbian and gay rights in the final documents.
Osotimehin said many of those same countries are now objecting to language protecting the sexual rights of women.
There is "a pushback" from delegates because "they conflate it with the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity," he said.
The debate comes at a turning point for gay rights in many countries.
In the United States, the push for gay marriage has swiftly gained momentum in recent years, with 17 states and the District of Columbia legalizing it and judges striking down voter-approved bans in conservative states. With opinion polls showing a majority of Americans approve allowing same-sex couples to marry, activists on both sides of the issue say pressure is building on the Supreme Court to take it up and decide whether to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
Other countries have intensified a crackdown on gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people. Uganda recently passed a new law that allows up to life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. Nigeria also strengthened its anti-gay laws this year, making it illegal for gay people even to hold meetings and criminalizing people working in HIV-AIDS programs for gays.
Two new laws in Russia — one seeking to prevent gays and lesbians from adopting children and other banning so-called gay "propaganda" accessible by minors — also sparked worldwide debate, especially during the Winter Olympic games in Sochi.
The United States, Russia and Uganda are among the 47 members of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development. However, many more countries participated in this week's conference.
Osotimehin said the issue of gay rights also came up in discussions of families.
A report prepared for the meeting discusses "new family formations," including the growing number of single parents, and calls for new thinking around parenting. That has stirred heated debates about addressing gay rights in the definition of families, he said.
"It's still creating the fireworks it created 20 years ago," he said. “In fact, all of the fight that is going on in that room is about LGBT, nothing more, nothing less."
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press

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