February 20, 2012

56 Islamic States: Sexual orientation and gender identity have “No legal foundation in any international human rights instrument.”

On March 7th, 2012, a panel discussion is scheduled at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) about a November 11, 2011 UN report from the High Commissioner of Human Rights entitled: "Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity." The report was mandated in Resolution 17/19.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) believes the subject matter is out of bounds, and that such "controversial notions" have "no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument," and to believe otherwise is "misinterpreting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

It wrote a letter to this effect to the HRC, saying that "historical, cultural and religious backgrounds" must take precedence. As such, "the issue of sexual orientation is unacceptable to the OIC" and it will not accept considerations and recommendations of the panel. It may even stage a walkout at the event.

The OIC said the debate would "seriously jeopardize the entire international human rights framework," and that such issues "relate to personal behavior and preferences, and have nothing to do with fundamental human rights."

The High Commissioner says otherwise. From the Report:
international human rights law is guided by the principles of universality and non-discrimination ... which states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy, the right to be free from torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirms that, “while the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Going further:
Non-discrimination is a core human rights principle embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core human rights treaties.
The specific grounds of discrimination referred to in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties are not exhaustive. The drafters intentionally left the grounds of discrimination open by using the phrase “other status”.
The Report makes reference to the 1994 case of Toonen v. Australia holding that states are obligated to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. Other treaty bodies have recognized the right of LGBT persons to exercise treaty rights free from discrimination.

The OIC picks and chooses human rights it will recognize, not to what conforms with the UDHR and international treaties arising from it, but instead with the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam that says:
All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.
The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.
This view expressed in the Cairo Declaration, that Shari'ah takes precedence, seems to allow violations against minorities, women and non-believers by OIC states. Now it seeks to get rid of all criticism designed to show Islam in a negative light by criminalizing such "blashpemy." In other words, a religion will possess greater "human" rights than a human.

I do not understand why the US saw fit to cooperate in this effort to resuscitate "defamation of religion" from the dead, by agreeing last March to HRC Resolution 16/18, entitled: "Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief." It thereafter hosted a three-day, closed-door international conference in December to address implementation.

The HRC will again consider Resolution 16/18 in March and the OIC will push further  to advance the international legal concept of defaming Islam. Will we learn not to shrink from the OIC's attempt to dictate the scope of free expression or claim its discrimination is culturally and religiously justified?

(Tip to UN Watch)


  1. The world needs to ostracize such behavior. There is no place for such nonsense in a modern world.

  2. Yes, the world does, especially the liberals.

    If only the OIC did not have such a grip on the General Assembly, to ram home its priorities and render much of the human rights machinery meaningless.