Tuesday The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly voted to approve a resolution condemning extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions. The vote was a reversal of the 2010 procedures which stripped the resolution of mentions of sexual orientation. And for the first time in the resolutions history gender identity has been included.
Fittingly the action taking place on the 14th International Transgender Day of Remembrance.
This resolution is introduced every two years to protect the right to life of all people. It includes calling on all member states to investigate killings based in discrimination. The resolution was introduced Sweden and co-sponsored by 34 countries.
For the past 12 years, this resolution has urged States "to investigate promptly and thoroughly all killings, including... all killings committed for any discriminatory reason, including sexual orientation." Apart from Human Rights Council resolution 17/19, it is the only UN resolution to make specific reference to sexual orientation. This year, the term "gender identity" was added to the list of categories vulnerable to extrajudicial killings.
On Tuesday the UAE introduced an amendment on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to strip the resolution of reference to "sexual orientation and gender identity", substituting the phrase "or any other reason". The UAE amendment gathered 44 votes in favor and 86 against, with 31 abstentions and 32 absent. There was an effort by the Vatican to strip all reference to specific groups at risk of execution, but the motion was never formally introduced. Singapore attempted to have language deleted which expressed "deep concern" over uses of arbitrary killing by application of capital punishment in violation of international law. That amendment failed with 50 votes in favor, 76 against, 37 abstentions and 30 absent.
The full resolution passed with 109 votes in favor, 1 against, 65 abstentions and 18 absent.
Many governments, including Brazil, the United States and South Africa, among others, spoke out to condemn the proposed amendment to remove reference to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Government of Japan ended the silence that has often characterized the Asian Group’s participation on LGBT rights at the UNGA by stating, "We cannot tolerate any killings of persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our delegation voted against the proposed amendment to this paragraph because we think it is meaningful to mention such killings from the perspective of protecting the rights of LGBT people."Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Arab group, condemned the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity., as did Iran on its own behalf and the UAE on behalf of of the OIC. Trinidad and Tobago stated that mention of gender identity would be a "particular challenge" for that country. Egypt spoke often, stating it was "gravely alarmed at the attempt to legitimate undetermined concepts like gender identity" by equating them with established characteristics like race, color, sex, religion, and language.
We are alarmed at the attempts to make new rights or new standards.In 2010 the Third Committee removed the reference to sexual orientation by a vote of 79 in favor and 70 opposed, with 17 abstaining and 26 not voting. But the resolution was later introduced before the General Assembly, which reinstated the language by a vote of 93-56, with 27 abstentions and 17 absent.
There was commentary from human rights organizations.
The resolution also focuses attention on another way, little explored by the UN up to now, that the death penalty as such does violence to human rights. The Third Committee sent a strong message, reaffirming everyone must be protected from extrajudicial killings and keeping language Singapore and others sought to expunge, thereby upholding fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law.
--Amnesty International's UN representative, José Luis Díaz
More than half of the world's nations have now spoken, and we call upon the minority of countries that still oppose LGBT rights to bring their laws into conformity with international standards.
--Kim Vance, co-director of Arc International
The inclusion of gender identity in the Resolution on Extrajudicial Executions is an historical landmark for trans* people around the world, who are commemorating today an International Day of Remembrance, honoring those killed by transphobic violence. In the context of this Resolution, language on gender identity would contribute decisively to dismantle that violence.
--Mauro Cabral, co-director, Global Action for Trans* Equality
We commend the steadfastness of those governments who showed their commitment to the universality of human rights principles, and urge those who have not to do so in future resolutions.
--Dédé Oetomo of GAYa NUSANTARA (Indonesia)
The right to life, liberty and security of the person is a basic human right. It is shocking to see how often people are killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With this vote the majority of states acknowledge this serious problem and seek to redress it.
--Boris Dittrich, advocacy director in the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch
With [Tuesday’s] UN vote, a majority of governments worldwide decisively rebutted the ideology of hate and affirmed the simple but fundamental premise that LGBT people have a right to exist. By some measure, this is a low bar, but progress is incremental and every step must be celebrated in advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere.
--Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
The passage of this resolution is the recognition that the lives and dignity of Trans people (transsexual, transgender, transvestite and intersex) and of lesbian, gay and bisexual people cannot continue to be taken with impunity. Today people are executed and/or murdered because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, which is an aberration we should be ashamed of as a society and as human beings. Today, states have spoken. They have recognized that life is a right and that they have the responsibility to protect it regardless of an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity. Today the work of civil society has paid off, and we can move forward continuing to advance rights.
--Andrés Rivera Duarte, director of Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad (OTD) (Chile)
We appreciate Sweden's lead on this important resolution for the first time explicitly mentioning inclusion of those persecuted on the grounds of gender identity and are very happy with the outcome.
--Ulrika Westerlund, president of RFSL (the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights)
As LGBT citizens of Singapore, we are applaud the government of Singapore for voting to include SOGI in the resolution to stop extra judicial killings. It sends a clear message affirming the sanctity of every human life. However, we are disappointed that the government of Singapore abstained from voting on passage of the resolution. This absence represents a missed opportunity to further protect the rights of LGBTIQ persons all over the world and shows little regard for the fate of its citizens.
--Jean Chong, Sayoni (Singapore)
Don't legalize killings and murders based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
--Moses Mulindwa, SPECTRUM (Uganda)
SPoD welcomes UN General Assembly's decision to include both sexual orientation and gender identity within the resolution. This historic vote, including gender identity, sends a clear message to all governments that LGBT individuals should be protected from extrajudicial executions. However, we are highly disappointed to see the Turkish Government abstained from the vote on the adoption of such a crucial resolution and absent on the vote on whether or not to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity as within Turkey an alarming number of LGBT people are killed every year.
--Onur Fidangul, International Coordinator, Social Policies, Gender Idenity and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (Turkey)
The historic vote of the UN against extrajudicial executions sends a strong signal to the international community that collectively, we stand against the appalling execution of individuals because of their sexual orientation & gender identity. We have just shattered that wall of silence that has allowed this grave form of abuse to persist in many countries worldwide, and we hope that this would lead to an end to extrajudicial executions of LGBTs. We are disappointed, however, with the abstention of the Philippine government. It must realize that with its silence on EJE, it is condoning this reprehensible abuse against LGBTs.Just last week the UN human rights office expressed concern over reports that Cameroon citizens were being harassed, intimidated, arrested and imprisoned because they were suspected of being LGBT. The UN added that Cameroon should use its ongoing review of its penal code to amend article 347 (which criminalizes sexual relations with a person of the same sex) to bring it into compliance with its international treaty obligations, including the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, while noting that the draft proposal of the revised code actually moves in the opposite direction, strengthening penalties for same-sex relations and conflating homosexuality with non-consensual sex and paedophilia.
--Jonas Bagas, director, TLF Share (Philippines