Showing posts with label UN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UN. Show all posts

February 9, 2018

UN H.R. Chief Condemns and Warns Indonesia About Proposal to Criminalize Gays




During his three-day visit to Indonesia this week, United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized the Indonesian parliament’s proposal to criminalize gay and premarital sex, as reported by Reuters
Zeid believes that this proposal is ‘discriminatory’, stating in a news briefing on Wednesday:
“The hateful rhetoric against the LGBT community that is being cultivated seemingly for cynical political purposes will only deepen their suffering and create unnecessary divisions.”
This comes after the Indonesian parliament’s proposed revision of a Dutch colonial-era criminal code, which, if approved, will outlaw gay sex, extramarital sex, and cohabitation outside of marriage.
As of today, apart from the conservative Islamic province of Aceh, Indonesian law does not regulate homosexuality. However, in recent years, the country has experienced a rise in hostility toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. 
Activists have raised concerns that the proposed rules could violate basic human rights, but top officials, including President Joko Widodo himself, have said that the country’s cultural and religious norms do not support the LGBT movement.
The proposed rules have gained support from the majority of the members of parliament. Very few politicians have stood in protest, for fear of losing the largely conservative voter base for the upcoming legislative and presidential elections next year.
Zeid, who has been in this United Nations post since 2014, said that he raised these issues with President Joko Widodo during his visit, and has urged Indonesia to address past events and other human rights violations occurring in the country, including the use of death penalty.
“There are some dark clouds on the horizon but … I hope the common sense and strong tradition of tolerance of the Indonesian people will prevail over populism and political opportunism,” Zeid said.
Photo courtesy of Voaindonesia.com
For further reading on this proposed law, click here

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December 22, 2017

UN Votes Declaring The US Decision On Jerusalem 'Null and Void'



By: Itamar Eichner, Elior Levy, Reuters and The Associated Press
Approved with an overwhelming majority of 128-9, the UN General assembly passes resolution declaring US' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel 'null and void.'
The General Assembly convened on Thursday for an emergency session, passing with a decisive 128-9 with 35 abstentions a resolution declaring US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel "null and void."

  
Thursday's vote, while a victory for the Palestinians, was significantly lower than its supporters had hoped for, with many forecasting at least 150 "yes" votes. It is noteworthy that 21 countries were absent.
   
UN General Assembly emergency session (Photo: AFP)
UN General Assembly emergency session (Photo: AFP)

"Israel rejects the UN decision and at the same time is satisfied with the high number of countries that did not vote in its favor," said a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, echoing his statement prior to the vote. 
  
"Israel thanks (US) President Trump for his unequivocal position in favor of Jerusalem and thanks the countries that voted together with Israel, together with the truth," it said.
   
Turkey's foreign minister said the UN members had shown that "dignity and sovereignty are not for sale" by voting in favor of the resolution.

In comments made on Twitter, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said that Turkey, Palestine and other co-sponsors thanked every country that supported the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly.

Israeli PM Netanyahu (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Israeli PM Netanyahu (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
  

A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the vote's result.

"The vote is a victory for Palestine," said Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah. "We will continue our efforts in the United Nations and at all international forums to put an end to this occupation and to establish our Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said prior to the vote that this assembly would teach future generations how Palestinian diplomacy succeeded in defeating the world's greatest superpower.

Al-Maliki also referred to the American threats to deny aid to countries that would vote against the resolution, calling it diplomatic and political ignorance that the United States has forced states, including poor ones, to declare that they are giving up US aid.
  
 (Photo: EPA)
(Photo: EPA)

At the assembly, Yemen’s UN ambassador introduced the UN resolution, urging all "peace-loving countries" to vote in favor of it.

Ambassador Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany called President Donald Trump’s action "a blatant violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nations, and all Muslims and Christians of the world."

He added the US decision "is considered a dangerous violation and breach of international law."

Alyemany says it threatens peace in the world, undermines any chance for peace in the Mideast "and only serves to fan the fires of violence and extremism."

The vote
The vote

Stepping up to the podium, US Ambassador Nikki Haley responded to Alyemany and to the resolution in general by threatening the 193 UN member states and the United Nations with funding cuts should approves it.

Haley told the emergency assembly meeting that "no vote in the United Nations will make any difference" on the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which will go ahead "no matter what" because "it is the right thing to do."

She then stressed that "the United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very right of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (Photo: AFP)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (Photo: AFP)

"We will remember it when we are called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations,” she warned. “And we will remember when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit."

Haley summarized by saying the vote "will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN, and this vote will be remembered." 
Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon blasted the UN resolution, saying it will eventually be rejected and end up in the "trash bin of history."

"Forty-two years ago this body adopted a different shameful resolution equating Zionism with racism. It took 16 long years for that hateful resolution to be revoked," he said.

"I have no doubt that today’s resolution will also end up eventually in the trash bin of history. I have no doubt that the day will come when the entire international community will finally recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel," he added.

Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon (Photo: AFP)
Israel's UN ambassador Danny Danon (Photo: AFP)
 

"No General Assembly resolution will ever drive us from Jerusalem,” he continued. "It is shameful for the United Nations that I stand here today and that the conference is even taking place. 

"Jerusalem is the holiest place for Israel and the Jewish people, period. This is an indisputable fact. King David declared it 3,000 years ago. In the Jewish Bible Jerusalem mentioned 660 times, we prayed repeatedly to reach Jerusalem.

"'(First Prime Minister of Israel) David Ben-Gurion himself said that 'Jerusalem is an inseparable part of the future and fate of Israel.'" 
  
Driving the point home, Danon then presented an ancient Jerusalem coin. "The coin I'm presenting is from 67 CE and it says 'Freedom of Zion,'" he said. "This is clear evidence from the time of the Second Temple, and proves a direct connection between Jews and Jerusalem."  
  
The coin Danon presented
The coin Danon presented
  
The resolution is very similar to the defeated Security Council resolution, which was vetoed by the US on Monday.

It reaffirms 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem, dating back to 1967, including requirements that the city's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

It "affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded."

The resolution  "demands that all comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions."

September 7, 2017

UN Says Syria Used Chem Weapons More Than 2 Dozen Times







* Govt plane dropped sarin on Khan Sheikhoun -U.N. investigators

* Say 83 killed there, “majority of them women and children”

* Investigators say U.S. strike on mosque violated law

* Total of 33 uses of chemical weapons documented in Syria - U.N. (Adds quotes from news conference, new paras 6, 14, 17, 20)



 Government forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during Syria’s civil war, including in April’s deadly attack on Khan Sheikhoun, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

A government warplane dropped sarin on the town in Idlib province, killing more than 80 civilians, the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria said, in the most conclusive findings to date from investigations into that chemical weapon attack.

The panel also said U.S. air strikes on a mosque in Al-Jina in rural Aleppo in March that killed 38 people, including children, failed to take precautions in violation of international law but did not constitute a war crime.

The weapons used on Khan Sheikhoun were previously identified as containing sarin, an odorless nerve agent. But that conclusion, reached by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), did not say who was responsible.

“Government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition-held areas. In the gravest incident, the Syrian air force used sarin in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib, killing dozens, the majority of whom were women and children,” the U.N. report said, declaring the attack a war crime.

Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro told a news conference: “Not having access did not prevent us from establishing facts or reasonable grounds to believe what happened during the attack and establishing who is responsible.”

In their 14th report since 2011, U.N. investigators said they had in all documented 33 chemical weapons attacks to date.

Twenty-seven were by the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including seven between March 1 to July 7. Perpetrators had not been identified yet in six attacks, they said.

The Assad government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons. It said its strikes in Khan Sheikhoun hit a weapons depot belonging to rebel forces, a claim “excluded” by Pinheiro.

That attack led U.S. President Donald Trump to launch the first U.S. air strikes on a Syrian air base.

A separate joint inquiry by the United Nations and OPCW aims to report by October on who was to blame for Khan Sheikhoun.

The U.N. investigators interviewed 43 witnesses, victims, and first responders linked to the attack. Satellite imagery, photos of bomb remnants and early warning reports were used.

‘GRAVELY CONCERNED’ ABOUT COALITION STRIKES

The independent investigators said they were gravely concerned about the impact of international coalition strikes on civilians.

“We continue to investigate coalition air strikes carried out to expel ISIS from Raqqa resulting in an increasing number of civilian casualties,” Pinheiro said.

The report said: “In al-Jina, Aleppo, forces of the United States of America failed to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects when attacking a mosque, in violation of the international humanitarian law.”

A U.S. military investigator said in June the air strike was a valid and legal attack on a meeting of al Qaeda fighters.

“However, the commission, however, has not found any evidence that such an al Qaeda meeting was taking place,” Pinheiro said.

The American F-15s hit the building adjacent to the prayer hall with 10 bombs, followed by a Reaper drone that fired two Hellfire missiles at people fleeing, the U.N. report said.

“Most of the residents of al-Jina, relatives of victims and first responders interviewed by the Commission stated on that on the evening in question, a religious gathering was being hosted in the mosque’s service building. This was a regular occurrence.”

By Stephanie Nebehay
Reuters
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by John Stonestreet
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

December 10, 2016

UN New Gay Rights Advocate Unfazed About Anti Gay Activism






 Nations may outlaw same-sex relations, execute gay people and oppose the very existence of his job, but the United Nations' first investigator tasked with combating violence and discrimination against gay and transgender people is undeterred.

Even countries perceived as the most virulent opponents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights may have pockets of openness and tolerance, said Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, the U.N.'s new gay rights independent investigator.

Muntarbhorn's job - to address, protect against and combat violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity - was created by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council despite strong objections by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries.

African states then sought to have his work suspended, but their effort was overridden by Latin American and Western nations at the United Nations last month.

Still, Russia and Egypt, speaking on behalf of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, have said they would not recognize Muntarbhorn's mandate nor cooperate with him.

"What is important from my perspective is not to see countries or governments as monolithic," Muntarbhorn told the Thomson Reuters Foundation this week, in one of the first interviews he has given since his appointment in September.

"If you start to liaise and bridge-build, you will also find niches where you will find people who are more open," he said.

"So my approach has always been that I must dialog with, I must interlink with those who might say no to the mandate from the start."

More than 70 nations have laws against same sex relations, and hundreds of LGBTI people have been killed and thousands injured in recent years, the U.N. has reported.

Yet one country might take entirely different approaches toward gay and transgender people, leaving room for progress, said Muntarbhorn, 64, an international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.

He has served on several U.N. bodies, including inquiries on Syria and as a special rapporteur on North Korea.

"For example, in my country, there's no law against gays ... but for the trans group, they can't change their gender identity," Muntarbhorn said.

Unable to change their legal identities, transgender people face issues from access to toilets to job and immigration rights, he said.

Other countries might support transgender rights yet have laws making gay people subject to the death penalty, he said.

Neither are the rights or expectations of the LGBTI community the same across the world, he added.

Along with violence and discrimination are such issues as rights to marry and adopt, he said. Some intersex people, meanwhile, who have ambiguous sex characteristics and identify as neither male nor female, are concerned with overcoming a medical perception that they are abnormal, he said.

Muntarbhorn added that he does not look at his task in terms of how many people he might represent around the world.

"One person might be affected 10, 20, 100 times, bullied at a young age, can't go to toilet, laughed at, tortured, ultimately killed and defamed at the same time," he said. "How many violations can you count?" (Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Ellen Wulfhorst
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) -

November 22, 2016

Putin,Arabs Tried Killing LGBT Rights Investigator’s Office-Putin Lost


 




UNITED NATIONS, (Reuters) 
African states failed on Monday to halt the work of the first U.N. independent investigator appointed to help protect gay and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.

The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, created the position in June and in September appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who has a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

In an unusual move, African states put forward a draft resolution in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly third committee, which deals with human rights, calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate. They said the work of the investigator should be suspended.

However, Latin American countries, supported by Western nations, successfully proposed an amendment that gutted the African group draft resolution. The amendment was adopted in the third committee on Monday with 84 votes in favor, 77 against and 17 abstentions.

The amended draft resolution, which makes no change to the work of the gay rights investigator, was then adopted by the third committee with 94 votes in favor, three against and 80 abstentions.

Russia and Egypt, speaking on behalf of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said they would not recognize the mandate of the gay rights investigator and would not cooperate with Muntarbhorn. Britain urged all countries to cooperate with the investigator.

Being gay is a crime in at least 73 countries, the U.N. has said. The issue of gay rights consistently sparks heated debate at the United Nations.

In 2014, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. would recognize all same-sex marriages of its staff, allowing them to receive U.N. benefits. Russia unsuccessfully tried to overturn it last year, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria among 43 states that supported Moscow.

In February the African Group, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the 25-member "Group of Friends of the Family," led by Egypt, Belarus and Qatar, protested the launch of six U.N. stamps promoting LGBT equality.

Then a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from officially attending a high-level U.N. meeting in June on ending AIDS, sparking a protest by the United States, Canada and the European Union. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool)


September 21, 2016

Proof Positive Russian Airstrikes Hit the Aid Convoy

This image provided by the Syrian anti-government group Aleppo 24 news, shows damaged trucks carrying aid, in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. A U.N. humanitarian aid convoy in Syria was hit by airstrikes Monday as the Syrian military declared that a U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire had failed. The US says it is holding Russia responsible for the attack, saying two Russian SU-24 figther jets (inset) were in the area during the attack. AP


 American military officials told CNN on Tuesday that radar, signals intelligence, and aerial surveillance all suggest that Russian aircraft were responsible for airstrikes on an aid convoy near Aleppo, Syria that killed at least 20 people.
"All the evidence we have points to that conclusion," one official told CNN.
The Red Crescent aid convoy was heading to a village just outside Aleppo Monday night when 18 of its 31 trucks, which were carrying UN supplies, were struck in at least two waves of strikes. As a result, the UN has halted all aid delivery in the country.
The attack occurred shortly after a ceasefire agreement between the Syrian regime and rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad, which was intended to allow the passage of humanitarian aid, broke down amid renewed fighting.
The Russian military had already denied that Russia or Syria had anything to do with the attacks. Russia's defense ministry released drone footage that they argue proves other factors were at play.
"We carefully studied the video recordings of the so-called activists from the scene and found no signs that any munitions hit the convoy," said Russian military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov, according to Kremlin-owned news agency TASS. "Everything shown on the video is the direct consequence that the cargo caught fire and this began in a strange way simultaneously with carrying out a massive offensive of militants in Aleppo."
While the official explanation was that the convoy had not been hit with munitions, Konashenkov did imply that an offensive from Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda linked militant group, had something to do with the deadly strikes.
Later in the day, TASS issued a new report, again quoting Konashenkov, suggesting that the convoy had been accompanied by a "terrorists' truck with a mortar."
"It is not clear who is covering home [sic]: either the mortar is covering the convoy with the White Helmets volunteers or vise versa," the spokesperson said, seemingly implying that the humanitarian aid workers had been working in conjunction with the al-Nusra fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which employs a network of activists in the country to monitor attacks on civilians, reports that it was a series of airstrikes that took out the convoy in Aleppo.
If Russia is proven responsible for the attack, it would be a black eye for the Putin regime, which spent the better part of Monday condemning an accidental airstrike carried out by the US on a Syrian military position, also near Aleppo. 
It's not the first time Russia and America have argued about who was behind an airstrike in Syria. In August, neither country could agree on who was responsible for taking out the Islamic State's second-in-command.
Despite the seeming disintegration of the cease fire, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that the agreement is “not dead" and is planning on meeting his counterparts, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, again on Friday.
Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling

July 1, 2016

U.N. Creates Watch Dog for LGBT Human Rights




                                                                         
adamfoxie.blogspot.com
                                                                     
The top human rights body of the United Nations voted on Thursday to appoint an independent monitor to help protect gay and transgender people around the world from violence and discrimination.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, creates an “independent expert” charged with identifying the root causes of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, and then talking with governments about ways to protect them.

The resolution that passed was the United Nations’ most overt expression of gay rights as human rights, and is considered a milestone.

The vote on the 47-member council passed only narrowly, with 23 nations in favor, primarily from Europe and Latin America. Though that was not a majority, six countries abstained, including India, South Africa and the Philippines. The 18 votes against it came from Russia, Africa and most of the Muslim countries on the panel. Albania was the only member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to favor creating an envoy for LGBT issues. The seats periodically rotate, and the United States currently does not sit on the council.

In a bow to the sensitivities of those countries where homosexuality is widely frowned upon, the resolution had a last-minute amendment added noting that “the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind.” Nevertheless, it adds, “It is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Randy Berry, the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, called the decision historic, but expressed disappointment that opponents had succeeded in adding wording suggesting LGBI rights may be a cultural imposition.

“It diminishes very slightly something extraordinary that happened,” he said in an interview. “As we look at what motivates that kind of objection, it’s a misplaced fear that the intent of creating an independent expert is to condemn or criticize. All along, it was clear the dialogue is to be informative, a resource for all countries, including our own, to get better on LGBTI issues.”


The resolution was put forward not by the United States but by several countries in Latin America — Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay. Latin America has some of the world’s most advanced legal protections for gay and transgender people.

Though the resolution was being prepared before the June 12 massacre in a gay nightclub in Orlando, some human rights activists said they thought the mass shooting played a role in propelling the Human Rights Council resolution forward.

The U.N.Security Council condemned the Orlando shooting in a statement that made headlines because for the first time the body had specifically mentioned sexual orientation as a factor, saying 49 victims they had been targeted because of who they are. 

“Orlando became part of the conversation around the resolution,” said Jessica Stern, executive director for Outright Action International, a U.S.-based human rights group. “I think it caused some governments on the fence to stop and take their decision much more seriously. You can’t keep your head in the sand after what happened at the Pulse nightclub.”

Under the resolution that passed, all the members of the United Nations are expected to cooperate with the expert, like the experts who already exist to investigate human rights abuses in countries or around themes. The countries are asked to facilitate the expert’s visits, and consider any recommendations that are made.

Shawn Gaylord, an advocacy counsel with Human Rights First, said the position has symbolic and practical value.
“It makes clear that LGBT rights are human rights,” he said. “That’s an essential part of the U.N. moving forward. On a practical level, there are resources that will flow and more staffing for LGBT issues to be researched, reviewed and recommendations made.”

Gaylord said an expert can find room for common ground, even in countries where gay and transgender people face social ostracism.


“If you’re talking about whether LGBT people should be protected from violence, a lot of countries would speak up for that,” he said. “Some countries are more challenging than others. But there’s always room for debate.”

Homosexual activities are illegal in 70 countries, 10 of which treat it as a capital offense.

May 19, 2016

American Culture Wars Like LGBT and HIV Hits the UN



Image result for world un  aids
                                                                                                                                                
                                                                          










THE PHENOMENON known in American domestic affairs as the culture wars has gone well and truly global. If anyone needs proof of that, consider the row that has erupted at the United Nations in recent days over plans for a high-level meeting next month on the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United States, the European Union and Canada are appalled by the fact that 11 gay and transgender groups have been barred from the gathering under pressure from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which groups 57 mainly Muslim lands. Egypt spearheaded the OIC’s diplomatic moves.

According to agency reports, America’s UN ambassador Samantha Power (pictured) raised the matter in an indignant letter to the president of the General Assembly. She wrote:

Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic...The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the UN.
Around UN headquarters on New York’s East River, the origins of this “movement” are clear enough: it reflects a social-conservative diplomatic coalition orchestrated mainly by the OIC and Russia, with some opportunistic support from China. Last year, all those parties tried to overturn a decision by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, to recognise same-sex marriages among the world body’s staff. Feelings are running high this week because of yesterday’s International Day against Homophobia. 

This traditionalist coalition has been rallying its forces even as LGBT rights gain prominence in the diplomatic agenda of Western countries. Ms Power, a respected writer on the subject of genocide, has made the LGBT question a personal priority. She recently invited 17 of her fellow UN ambassadors, including the envoy of Russia, to watch a musical set in a small American town about a father and daughter who are both gay.

It’s striking that Vladimir Putin’s Russia, while taking a strident stance against Islam-inspired terror, has been eager to team up with Islamic governments in resisting the global movement for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. Moscow’s foreign-policy rhetoric has raised the standard of “traditional” values and cultures which have a common interest in resisting the liberal tide. As is pointed out by Lucian Leustean, a scholar of geopolitics and religion at Britain’s Aston University, Russia’s new national-security strategy makes prominent mention of “spiritual security”, in other words the idea that Russia’s moral and metaphysical values are under global threat. This converges, at least in part, with the concept of “faith security” which has been used by the Egyptian government to justify strict government oversight of religion, clamping down on atheism and “blasphemy” as well as ultra-pious extremism.

And in Russia and Egypt alike, being an international advocate for traditional values seems perfectly consistent with dealing fairly harshly at home with forms of religion that don’t conform to officially approved norms. Forum 18, an independent religious-freedom campaign, said today in a report that it knew of 119 individuals who had been prosecuted in Russia last year for exercising freedom of religion; they ranged from Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons to followers of China’s Falun Gong movement. Most had received fines, a few found themselves briefly in custody. The total was a sharp rise on the 2014 figure of 23 prosecutions. 

ERASMUS

              LGBT Group from Jamaica Barred from Attending UN AIDS Conference

The United States and the European Union are protesting a UN decision to bar at least 20 non-governmental groups from taking part in a major AIDS conference next month.
US Ambassador Samantha Power said the NGOs taken off the list of participants "appear to have been chosen for their involvement in LGBTI, transgender or youth advocacy."
In a letter to UN General Assembly president Mogens Lykketoft, Power requested that these groups, including the US-based Global Action for Trans Equality, be allowed to take part in the June 8-10 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS.
European Union Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said the NGOs had been struck from the list following objections from member states and requested information on which countries opposed their presence. 
One of the European NGOs that has been barred from taking part is the Eurasian Coalition on Male Health, based in Estonia, which has been vocal on gay rights in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
Egypt requested that 11 groups be barred from attending the AIDS conference, in a request sent on behalf of 51 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), according to a letter seen by AFP on Tuesday.
Aside from the Estonian and US gay activist groups, Egypt objected to the participation of Ishtar Men Who Have Sex With Men group from Kenya and the Asia Pacific Transgender Network from Thailand.
The list cited groups from Egypt, Guyana, Jamaica, Peru, Ukraine as well as African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, a coalition of 18 LGBT groups across Africa.
The EU ambassador wrote in his letter sent last week that changes to an initial list of delegations were made without consulting member states.
"Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation," Power wrote in her letter.
The high-level meeting is aimed at fast-tracking measures to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

March 3, 2016

US Ambassador to UN Takes Russian Counterpart to Gay Play


  
Image result for Tony Award-winning play “Fun Home”















Over 70 countries have anti-gay laws which is one reason why Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, decided to take 17 U.N. ambassadors to the theater Tuesday night to see the Tony Award-winning play “Fun Home” whose main character is a lesbian with a closeted gay dad.


Power, a strong advocate for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals, got a standing ovation at the end of the play, led by Tony nominee Beth Malone who thanked her and President Barack Obama for doing “so much for LGBT rights.”

Based on the autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, “Fun Home” centers on growing up in a family-owned funeral home in a small Pennsylvania town where the daughter realizes she’s attracted to women and the father has secretly had affairs with men.
Power said she invited a diverse group of ambassadors to see the stories of real lives to bring home “the challenges that LGBT people face every day around the world.”

According to a report last June by the U.N. human rights chief, at least 76 countries have 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.

The 17 ambassadors spanned the globe from Australia, Vietnam and Namibia to Norway, Mexico, Uruguay and Russia, which was strongly criticized for its anti-gay laws ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Several ambassadors said after the play that they arrived not knowing what it was about.

Power said the play dramatizes the LGBT issue “in a way that (U.N.) resolutions and statements never can.”
“This is the way we are going to break through,” she said. “It’s about imagining oneself. It’s about imagining one’s child. It’s about imagining one’s father.”

But Power stressed that “it takes time to change the DNA of the U.N. just as it’s taken a lot of time to change the DNA of the United States.”

Actress Cynthia Nixon from the TV series “Sex and the City” moderated an after-theater panel with the writers and cast, followed by comments from several ambassadors.
“Too often our work is about abstracts,” Switzerland’s Ambassador Jurg Lauber said. “Once in a while it’s important to tell us it’s about people.”

Joao Vale de Almeida, the European Union’s ambassador to the U.N. who is from Portugal, said his younger brother told him that he was gay on a long car ride – similar to one in the play – and they organized the way that he would tell their parents.

“It could have gone wrong but they went pretty well,” he said. “It’s a good story in my case. I know (for) other people, the stories were not so good.”
Vale de Almeida said the performance was “great” and told the cast “it’s crucial that you shared (the story) with everybody.”

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