Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Armenia endorses historic UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Armenia was the last country in the South Caucasus to decriminalise gay male sex towards the very end of 2002. It now became the first country not only in the South Caucasus but in a broader region to sign up for the proposed French-sponsored and EU-backed UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There are many current problems in Armenia with regards to human rights. In short, respect for human rights is in pretty poor and vulnerable state. However... praise when praise is due.

I do commend Armenian authorities for endorsing the UN statement. This is pretty unprecedented and historic occasion.

At last, Armenia became part of the world headlines for the very RIGHT reasons. Let’s hope this trend will continue, and we will witness changes not only on the level of international declarations but also local level implementations.

The presentation of the declaration is now expected to take place at the UN General Assembly between 15 and 20 December - not on 10 December as previously reported.

The list of supporting countries is growing but still well short of a majority [although it does not require voting].

It will be tabled by France with the backing of all 27 member states of the EU; plus non-EU European nations including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine, Armenia and Macedonia. Russia and Turkey are not signing.

The call for the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships also has the support of the Latin American states of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay but not, notably, Columbia, Guyana or Venezuela.

Only three African nations – Gabon, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau – are endorsing the declaration so far. South Africa has not signed up. No Caribbean nation has offered its support, not even Cuba.

Although New Zealand is committed to the declaration, Australia is not. Nor is the US. But Canada is a sponsor.

No country in the Middle East, apart from Israel, endorses the declaration, and in Asia only Japan has agreed to approve it. China and India are silent on where they stand.

I just received welcome news that Australia endorses the statement. Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey did not endorse it, as of now.

Russian gay right activists sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calling Russia to join the UN declaration. The letter to minister Sergei Lavrov says that “we would like to pay attention to the fact that natural allies of Russia, including Orthodox states such as Armenia and Serbia, but also Venezuela have already agreed to sign the declaration. As of today, more than 50 countries agreed to sign it”.

This is the first time that Armenia is brought as an example for championing gay rights on international level. For now, I feel proud that my country aligned itself with the more progressive segments of international community. I will feel even more proud if everything written in that declaration gets implemented too. It will take time, efforts. As friend of mine (internationally based Armenian gay rights activist) said to me today, “positive steps on an international level but the national level advocacy is lagging behind in Armenia”.

Veteran British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell calls this a “watershed for gay rights”: “It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has had before it a declaration in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) human rights.”

The statement deals with human rights abuses, directed against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including violence, criminal sanctions, torture, threats against human rights defenders and discrimination in accessing economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health.


We have the honour to make this statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity on behalf of [...]

1 - We reaffirm the principle of universality of human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose 60th anniversary is celebrated this year, Article 1 of which proclaims that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”;

2 - We reaffirm that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, as set out in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as in article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

3 - We reaffirm the principle of non-discrimination which requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity;

4 - We are deeply concerned by violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

5 - We are also disturbed that violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatisation and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses;

6 - We condemn the human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty on this ground, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to health;

7 - We recall the statement in 2006 before the Human Rights Council by fifty four countries requesting the President of the Council to provide an opportunity, at an appropriate future session of the Council, for discussing these violations;

8 - We commend the attention paid to these issues by special procedures of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies and encourage them to continue to integrate consideration of human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity within their relevant mandates;

9 - We welcome the adoption of Resolution AG/RES. 2435 (XXXVIII-O/08) on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity” by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States during its 38th session in 3 June 2008;

10 - We call upon all States and relevant international human rights mechanisms to commit to promote and protect human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity;

11 - We urge States to take all the necessary measures, in particular legislative or administrative, to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.

12 - We urge States to ensure that human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity are investigated and perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice;

13 - We urge States to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders, and remove obstacles which prevent them from carrying out their work on issues of human rights and sexual orientation and gender identity.

Here is what Peter Tatchell had to say in The Guardian:
A declaration calling for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality will be put before the United Nations general assembly in the next two weeks. It will be the first time in its history that the UN General Assembly has considered the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

Although it will not be binding on the member states, the declaration will have immense symbolic value, given the six decades in which homophobic persecution has been ignored by the UN.

If you want to understand why this decriminalisation declaration is so important and necessary, ponder this: even today, not a single international human rights convention explicitly acknowledges the human rights of LGBT people. The right to physically love the person of one's choice is nowhere enshrined in any global humanitarian law. No convention recognises sexual rights as human rights. None offers explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet 86 countries (nearly half the nations on Earth) still have a total ban on male homosexuality and a smaller number also ban sex between women. The penalties in these countries range from a few years jail to life imprisonment. In at least seven countries or regions of countries (all under Islamist jurisdiction), the sentence is death: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. […]

Unsurprisingly, the Vatican and the Organisation of Islamic States are leading the fight against the UN declaration. The opposition of the Pope is truly sickening, depraved and shameless.

Of course, the Vatican has form. In 2004, it teamed up with Islamist dictatorships in the UN Commission on Human Rights to thwart a resolution sponsored by Brazil that opposed homophobic violence and discrimination. The Holy See is so viciously homophobic that it opposed the UN condemnation of the murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Last week, the papal envoy to the UN, Monsignor Celestino Migliore, explained the "logic" of this opposition when he announced the Vatican's rejection of this week's decriminalisation declaration. The monsignor argued that the UN declaration would unfairly "pillory" countries where homosexuality is illegal; forcing them to establish "new categories (gay people) protected from discrimination." Such laws would "create new and implacable acts of discrimination ... States where same-sex unions are not recognized as 'marriages,' for example, would be subject to international pressure."

In other words, protecting LGBT people against discrimination is an act of discrimination against those who discriminate. Since the Vatican is against discrimination, it opposes discrimination against countries that discriminate. This is the mediaeval mindset of the Pope and his placemen.

Never mind, there are already plenty of countries committed to supporting the UN decriminalisation declaration. […]


artmika said...

Spokeperson for Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today Armenia's endorsement of the UN statement.

artmika said...

According to uncomfirmed reports, Georgia has now joined the UN statement too.

artmika said...

According to British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, these are confirmed signatories so far - more pending:

Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Peter Tatchell urged Obama to back UN LGBT rights statement:

“I urge Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the US Congress to speak out in support of the forthcoming UN statement on LGBT human rights,” said Peter Tatchell of the British lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights movement, OutRage!

“To draw a line under the homophobic policies of the Bush administration, they need to publicly endorse this UN initiative for LGBT human rights.

“If the US government does not sign up, it will be aligning itself with homophobic non-signing regimes like Iran, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Belarus,” he said.

artmika said...

Statement of the coalition of international human rights organizations (Amnesty International; ARC International; Center for Women's Global Leadership; COC Netherlands; Global Rights; Human Rights Watch; IDAHO Committee; International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC); International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA); and Public Services International)

UN: General Assembly to Address
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Statement affirms promise of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

For Immediate Release

(New York, December 11, 2008) - As the world celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the UN General Assembly will hear a statement in mid-December endorsed by more than 50 countries across the globe calling for an end to rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A coalition of international human rights organizations today urged all the world's nations to support the statement in affirmation of the UDHR's basic promise: that human rights apply to everyone.

Nations on four continents are coordinating the statement, including: Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, Japan, the Netherlands, and Norway. The reading of the statement will be the first time the General Assembly has formally addressed rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"In 1948 the world's nations set forth the promise of human rights, but six decades later, the promise is unfulfilled for many," said Linda Baumann of Namibia, a board member of Pan Africa ILGA, a coalition of over 60 African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups. "The unprecedented African support for this statement sends a message that abuses against LGBT people are unacceptable anywhere, ever."

The statement is non-binding, and reaffirms existing protections for human rights in international law. It builds on a previous joint statement supported by 54 countries, which Norway delivered at the UN Human Rights Council in 2006.

"Universal means universal, and there are no exceptions," said Boris Dittrich of the Netherlands, advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program. "The UN must speak forcefully against violence and prejudice, because there is no room for half measures where human rights are concerned."

The draft statement condemns violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killings and executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights on those grounds.

"Today, dozens of countries still criminalize consensual homosexual conduct, laws that are often relics of colonial rule," said Grace Poore of Malaysia, who works with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "This statement shows a growing global consensus that such abusive laws have outlived their time."

The statement also builds on a long record of UN action to defend the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In its 1994 decision in Toonen v. Australia, the UN Human Rights Committee - the body that interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), one of the UN's core human rights treaties - held that human rights law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since then, the United Nations' human rights mechanisms have condemned violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including killings, torture, rape, violence, disappearances, and discrimination in many areas of life. UN treaty bodies have called on states to end discrimination in law and policy.

Other international bodies have also opposed violence and discrimination against LGBT people, including the Council of Europe and the European Union. In 2008, all 34 member countries of the Organization of American States unanimously approved a declaration affirming that human rights protections extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Latin American governments are helping lead the way as champions of equality and supporters of this statement," said Gloria Careaga Perez of Mexico, co-secretary general of ILGA. "Today a global movement supports the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and those voices will not be denied."

So far, 55 countries have signed onto the General Assembly statement, including: Andorra, Armenia, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chile, Ecuador, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All 27 member states of the European Union are also signatories.

"It is a great achievement that this initiative has made it to the level of the General Assembly," said Louis-Georges Tin of France, president of the International Committee for IDAHO (International Day against Homophobia), a network of activists and groups campaigning for decriminalization of homosexual conduct. "It shows our common struggles are successful and should be reinforced."

"This statement has found support from states and civil society in every region of the world," said Kim Vance of Canada, co-director of ARC International. "In December a simple message will rise from the General Assembly: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly universal."

artmika said...

History in making: 66 countries, including Armenia, signed a joint UN statement against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

artmika said...

Worldfocus on Armenia’s endorsement of groundbreaking UN LGBT human rights statement

[…] Armenian blogger “Artmika” calls his country’s support of the decriminalization declaration “historic,” writing that it is the first time Armenia has set such an example. […]