UN, New York, Dec. 10—In a speech at a UN event to mark International Human Rights Day, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice today announced that the U.S. will press for a major UN vote to restore language in a human rights resolution on extrajudicial killings to emphasize that LGBT people are often the targets of such murders.
The high-level panel marking human rights day focused exclusively on violence, discrimination and related abuse against LGBT communities worldwide. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the event by noting that “these are not merely assaults on individuals. They are attacks on all of us.” He declared that “we have a collective responsibility to stand against discrimination, to defend our fellow human beings and our fundamental principles,” emphasizing that “from my first days in office as Secretary-General, I have spoken out against stigma and discrimination.” He noted that he has called for decriminalization of homosexuality in all countries, and that he is proud of his individual interventions in support of LGBT rights, including his efforts last May to secure the release of a young transgender couple imprisoned in Malawi on criminal charges for homosexuality. (See his full statement here.)
Ambassador Rice spoke of the progress the United States has achieved in support of equality, but noted that in the United States, “we have got a great deal more work to do.” She expressed extreme disappointment at the vote in the U.S. Senate yesterday to block debate of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” noting that it “erodes our security, as well as our principles.” She vowed to fight on in the United States and at the United Nations. In particular, Rice noted that she was “incensed by the recent vote in the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which eliminated any mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals from a resolution condemning extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world.” She vowed to fight that decision on the floor of the UN General Assembly before an upcoming vote on December 20. (See her full remarks here.)
The upcoming fight on LGBT language in the resolution condemning extrajudicial killings could be a very big—and very important—fight in the United Nations later this month. It is the only UN human rights resolution that includes sexual orientation language, and the battle lines that were drawn last month during the committee vote that stripped the language were particularly sharp. The campaign for LGBT-recognition in the General Assembly will be difficult, and victory is not certain, but it does embody the principled commitment of the U.S. government.
After the high-level discussion, which also included remarks by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and other senior UN officials, three human rights defenders provided their own testimony of their real-life struggles and the violence they experience within their LGBT communities in Turkey, the Caribbean and southern Africa.