Archive for March, 2012

Statement from UNHCHR on the murder of Daniel Zamudio

Daniel Zamundio

Daniel Zamudio

Statement from Rupert Colville, the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In Chile, a 24 year-old gay man, Daniel Zamudio, died on Tuesday 27 March, 25 days after being viciously assaulted by a group of alleged neo-Nazis in a Santiago park.  He was reportedly tortured for an hour by his attackers, who stubbed cigarettes out on him, carved swastikas into his body, and mutilated him in other ways.

We deplore the violent criminal act that took the life of this young man and urge the Chilean Congress to pass a law against discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in full compliance with relevant international human rights standards.

We also urge Chile to enact hate crime legislation that establishes hatred based on various grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity, as an aggravating factor for the purposes of criminal prosecution.

The incident has sparked a public outcry in Chile, with hundreds joining vigils outside the hospital where Mr Zamudio was taken after the attack. It has also provoked a debate about homophobia and hate crimes and calls for Parliament to pass an anti-discrimination law, which is currently before the Chilean Parliament, awaiting approval by the lower House. The bill was initially presented in Parliament in 2005 and has undergone much debate and reformulation.

The case should be seen in the wider context of hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world. OHCHR’s report* on this issue, which was submitted to the Human Rights Council earlier this month, found evidence of “startlingly high levels” of homophobic violence in all regions. Examples cited in the report include physical assaults, torture, sexual violence and killings.

The killing of Daniel Zamudio is just the latest reminder of the gravity and prevalence of homophobic violence, which, as the recent OHCHR report found, exists in all regions.

This time it happened in Santiago, Chile, but it happens every day on the streets of towns and cities all over the world.

*The High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report to the Human Rights Council A/HRC/19/41, entitled “Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity” can be found at: 

U.S. Amb. Ian Kelly Statement On LGBT Rights In Russian Federation And Moldova

US Ambassador Ian Kelly, OSCEGeneva, Switzerland
Ambassador Ian Kelly

March 22, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

We take this moment to subscribe to the joint statement of Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway delivered at the Permanent Council on March 15, which articulated concerns about the newly adopted legislation in St. Petersburg, Russia, banning “public action aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors,” as well as the recent administrative decisions in several Moldovan municipalities which aim to prohibit the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations” and to prohibit “homosexual demonstrations.”

We are concerned when institutionally adopted decisions and legislative initiatives purposely attempt to discriminate against certain groups. The St. Petersburg legislation and the Moldovan administrative decisions violate the fundamental freedoms of persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. They are at odds with regional and international human rights standards, including the 1990 Copenhagen Document, which lays the foundation for our collective OSCE commitments on nondiscrimination.

For over twenty years, the OSCE has worked determinedly to combat all forms of discrimination, underscoring the vital role that tolerance and understanding play in achieving and preserving stable democratic societies. In 2009, we took an important step forward when we committed to the Athens Ministerial Decision on Combating Hate Crimes, which further developed OSCE principles on tolerance and non-discrimination and created new commitments for participating States on hate crimes. This decision recognized that “manifestations of discrimination and intolerance threaten the security of individuals and societal cohesion.”

We note further that recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council held its first dedicated discussion on the issue of discrimination and violence on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In a moving speech to the Council on March 7th, UN Secretary-General Ban observed that “discrimination directed at people just because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender . . . is also a violation of international law.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also noted that laws that criminalize same-sex relations, or contain vague prohibitions that are applied in a discriminatory way to prosecute lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people not only breach international human rights law, but also cause unnecessary suffering, reinforce stigma, fuel violence and undermine efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

In light of the wide-ranging OSCE commitments described above to which all participating States have agreed, we urge relevant authorities in Russia and Moldova to reverse these actions.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

LGBT Rights Upheld in Historic Inter-American Court Ruling

Karen Atala

Karen Atala

“Based on both American regional standards and international jurisprudence, the Court has ruled that LGBT people must live free from discrimination, whether as parents or in any other aspect of their lives.”
-Jessica Stern, Director of Programs IGLHRC

(New York, March 22, 2012) — On Tuesday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned the Government of Chile for its 2003 Supreme Court ruling which stripped Karen Atala, a lesbian mother and judge, of custody of her three daughters on the basis of her sexual orientation. The 2003 ruling determined that if her daughters remained in her custody, they would be in a “situation of risk” due to their “unique family.” This is the first time the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ever heard a case specifically regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Court’s landmark ruling found that Chile not only violated Atala’s right to equality and non-discrimination but affirms for the first time in its history that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories and such discrimination violates international law. It represents a historic victory for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Chile and around the world. Continue reading ‘LGBT Rights Upheld in Historic Inter-American Court Ruling’

Death and life in Iraq: Obama death cabs, vampires, Ministries, and murder

The following is a piece was written by Scott Long, visiting fellow at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, for his blog Paper Bird

If you want to know what life and death are like in Iraq, here’s a story. When a colleague and I went there during the killing campaign in 2009, among those we met were three men, best friends, all calling themselves “gay” in English, though two had wives.  I’ll name them (as I did in HRW’s report of that year) Hamid, Majid, and Idris. Hamid could barely talk to us: he’d developed a severe speech impediment after his partner’s murder, three weeks before. Armed, black-masked raiders had taken the man from his parents’ home. The next day, his corpse was found thrown in the garbage, castrated, with his throat torn out.

The following night, they came for Hamid.

They entered my house and they saw my mother, and one of them said: “Where’s your faggot son?” There were five men. Their faces were covered. Fortunately I wasn’t there but my mother called me after they left, in tears.

He went into hiding. His two friends took care of him. Their homes had been raided too, but they’d escaped; the three moved from cheap hotel to cheap hotel, till they got our phone numbers through some still-serving grapevine.

We were trying to help the most endangered men we encountered get out of Iraq. We offered to assist the three — we almost begged — but they hesitated. They wanted to be sure they would stay together, wherever they were ultimately accepted as refugees. The two married men wanted to bring their wives.  I could promise all that with reasonable certainty; but I couldn’t promise that, if they filed refugee claims based on sexual orientation, their wives wouldn’t be told the grounds. They went back to Baghdad to consider it;  after a week or two we couldn’t reach them by phone anymore. It was one of the worst stories we heard in Iraq, made worse by the fact that we couldn’t do enough. Continue reading

Pillay presents groundbreaking UN study on violence, discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation

Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations

Watch the full Panel discussion on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to the Panel on ending violence and discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity at the Human Rights Council 19th Session 

Geneva, 7 March 2012


Distinguished representatives,

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to present my study on discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. In doing so, I am conscious of the divergent view both within and outside the Council on the rights of individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, I am certain that none among you will be willing to tolerate serious, systematic violations of human rights against them.

The Secretary-General says he didn’t grow up talking about these issues. The same may be true for a number of us here today. Like the Secretary-General, we are in the process of educating ourselves. But it is time to acknowledge that, while we have been talking of other things, terrible violence and discrimination has been perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

This Council stood up for the rights of all when, last June, States from all regions joined together to adopt resolution 17/19 expressing “grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

By the same resolution, the Council requested me to prepare a study “to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, in all regions of the world”, and to examine “how international human rights law can be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” Continue reading ‘Pillay presents groundbreaking UN study on violence, discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation’

LGBTs have a voice in foreign affairs

Michael Guest, The Council for Global EqualityOp-Ed as it appears in the Bay Area Reporter, written by The Council for Global Equality, Senior Advisor, Michael Guest

When it comes to the rights of LGBT people abroad, you don’t have to look back very far to see the future.

David Bahati is at it again, reintroducing in Uganda’s parliament legislation that, in extreme cases, would put gay people to death for having same-sex relationships. Bahati’s unamended hate bill already has sailed through a first reading, and although it now has been sent back to committee for further review, volatility in Uganda’s politics underscore that it would be a mistake to assume the bill will remain bottled up.

Uganda is hardly the only place where anti-gay intolerance and discrimination is on the march. Only last week, Cameroon’s police forces arrested another 10 women, merely on the suspicion that they are lesbians. A newly introduced bill in Liberia would make homosexuality a felony, with prison sentences of up to 10 years. Nigeria’s Senate passed a bill late last year to penalize more severely not only gay relationships, but human rights defenders who work on behalf of gay rights; its lower house appears poised to bring this legislation into law. And in St. Petersburg, Russia, a bill that would sharply circumscribe the freedom of expression for LGBT people has sailed through its third hearing. Continue reading ‘LGBTs have a voice in foreign affairs’

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