By Jamshed Baruah
GENEVA (IDN) - The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Consultative Group has named Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor who has held prior UN rights posts, as the world body’s first independent expert to monitor violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Group comprises five diplomats. One of them, Amr Ramadan, Egypt’s ambassador to the Council, has refused to participate in the selection process. He detailed his reasons to the council president in a letter obtained by UN Watch, a non-governmental organization based in Geneva.
In the letter to UNHRC President Kyonglim Choi on July 29, the Egyptian Ambassador says: "This mandate (of the Council) was created at the backdrop of unprecedented divisiveness and polarization with a level that has never been associated with the creation of any other mandate.
"It is noteworthy that the paragraphs relevant to the creation of the mandate were retained by a recorded vote of 19 to 17 and 6 abstentions, not to mention that the resolution as a whole was modified by an unprecedented number of accepted amendments. These very specific circumstances significantly compromise the legitimacy of the created mandate."
Ramadan argues that contrary to the announced explanation that this mandate will be restricted to combating violence and discrimination, which are already addressed through other resolutions and existing mandates, "it is crystal clear" that this resolution and the mandate emanating from it are designed for codifying new and distinct set of rights and protection for a specific group of individuals, namely the gays.
"For this reason, I am of the firm conviction that the creation of this mandate is in Ulta Vires to international human rights law and is beyond universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms in a manner that amounts to utter disregard to the principle of universality of internationally agreed human rights as outlined in international human rights law," the Egyptian diplomat wrote.
According to him, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) – the powerful Islamic bloc comprised of 56 UN member states and the Palestinian Authority – shall ”boycott this mandate and shall not recognize its creation nor cooperate or interact with it in any form or format".
Human rights activists have decried the OIC’s boycott. “The Islamic states’ boycott of a mandate to protect gays from being attacked or killed is morally indefensible,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“Moreover, for those states which are members of the Human Rights Council – like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE – their refusal to cooperate with the mandate is an express breach of their obligations.”
“If Egypt is officially boycotting a UN human rights expert, it should fully resign from the committee that selects them,” said Neuer.
Ramadan, however, argues that in view of "the aforementioned considerations", he finds it "difficult to engage in an exercise which is contrary to my convictions and the values I stand for".
His decision in this regard, he adds, is also in line with the said Council resolution (32/2) that "stressed the need to maintain joint ownership of the international human rights agenda and to consider human rights issues in an objective and non-confrontational manner". [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 August 2016]
Photo: Egyptian ambassador Amr Ramadan explaining his reservations to the UN Human Rights Council. Credit: UN Watch.
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