United Nations -- African and Arab nations succeeded by a whisker in deleting three words from a resolution that would have included gays in a denunciation of arbitrary killings. Europeans protested in vain.
At issue was a measure on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions adopted by a General Assembly committee. Usually a vote in the committee, which includes all UN members, is tantamount to official passage by the Assembly.
The reference in the three-page draft came in the sixth of 22 paragraphs and urged investigations of all killings "committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation." The provision was among many that had been proposed and analyzed by a "special rapporteur" (investigator) on the subject.
Benin, the chair of the African group of nations, proposed the amendment and Morocco, on behalf of the Islamic Conference, argued that there was no foundation for gays in international human rights instruments as there was in cases of race, gender and religious discrimination.
Finland and Britain
Finland, the main sponsor of the resolution, said the argument was unacceptable. And Nicola Freedman, the British representative, told the panel on Tuesday:
"To accept this amendment would be to accept that this particularly vulnerable group of people do not deserve specific mention, perhaps even to suggest that they do not warrant the same protection from killings. To us this suggestion is an affront to equality and respect for human dignity."
The vote on the amendment was 79 in favor, 70 against and 17 abstentions. (Both South Africa and Cuba voted for it and the United States opposed the amendment).The draft, which condemns killings for racial, ethnic, religious and many other reasons, including honor killings, was then accepted by 165 votes in favor and 10 abstentions. It is expected to be adopted by the General Assembly before the end of the year. (see vote list). In 2008, Uganda attempted a similar amendment that was defeated, so the vote this week was a step backwards.
Gays have been a controversial issue for years and in 2008 Europeans introduced a declaration to decriminalize homosexuality that was endorsed by 67 nations, including President Barack Obama in 2009. But it never received enough support to be turned into a resolution as nearly 66 nations signed an opposing declaration, among them Islamic states, China, Russia and the Vatican.
Africans and anti-gay legislation
Homosexuality is illegal in more than 30 out of 50 African nations. South Africa is the only country on the continent to have legalized gay marriage. In Uganda, a pending bill would impose the death sentence on gays in some instances and also criminalize the discretion of people who know about a gay relationship and don't report it. It was introduced by lawmaker David Bahati, who has ties to American evangelists, suspected to having wide influence on the issue.
At the United Nations, the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in July achieved consultative rights as a non-governmental organization (NGO) after being rejected since 2007 by an obscure committee on NGOs. The 3,200 accredited NGOS can attend UN meetings, lobby delegates and submit papers. The group was accepted only after an appeal, initiated by the United States, to the larger UN Economic and Social Council. (The UN Secretariat recognizes gay partnerships for nationals of countries where it is legal, although UN agencies are liberal in applying the guidelines)
The committee that accredits NGOs in known to make up rules and standards as it goes along and is suspected of vetoing each other's dissidents. For example, in the 1990s, it rejected the renowned Human Rights Watch (later accepted) and in 2000 asked Hadassah, the women's Zionist organization which runs hospitals, to give them the name of every Palestinian it had treated. Hadassah was accredited after the United States lobbied the Economic and Social Council.
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