Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

Kenya’s Reelected Leader Must End Horrifying Anal Exams

Repost from the Advocate

Kenya, the economic and political powerhouse of Eastern and Central Africa, held an election this week to choose the fifth president of the country since independence. While the vote is still being contested by opposition leader Raila Odinga, it appears that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta just won a second and final term. When it comes to defending the human rights of Kenya’s LGBTIQ citizens, Kenyatta’s record is critically important to our emerging democracy.

During President Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2015, Kenyatta said, “We share a lot of things, but gay issues are not among them. … There are some things that we must admit we don’t share. It’s very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept. This is why I say for Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a nonissue.” Kenyatta was responding to Obama, who emphasized the need for Kenya to stop discriminating against gays and lesbians, saying, “I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this. When you start treating people differently because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen.”

During an interview with CNN in October 2015, Kenyatta underlined that what he meant when responding to Obama was not that gays have no rights. “I will not allow people to persecute any individuals, or beat and torture them,” he said, adding that “we have to understand that these are processes and they take time … and this is where I am saying we have to get synergies. You are not going to create the U.S., Great Britain, or Netherlands in Kenya, or in Nigeria or Senegal overnight.”

President Kenyatta’s lack of leadership on LGBTIQ issues is of great concern. The unsupportive public statements have offered license to state officers who continue to harass and arrest gays and lesbians; political cover to those who deny LGBTIQ citizens access to medical, educational, and other social services; and a justification for hate crimes committed by the general public. The use of forced anal exams to “prove” homosexual activity stands out as a particularly brutal form of torture in this larger context. Continue Reading

House LGBT Caucus Commends Foreign Affairs Committee Approval of Bipartisan Chechnya Resolution

Washington D.C.— The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus commended the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) for passing H.Res.351, a bipartisan resolution condemning the detention, torture, and murders of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.  H.Res.351 was introduced by LGBT Caucus founding member and former HFAC Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) on May 23rd and has 52 bipartisan cosponsors, including HFAC Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (CA-39) and Ranking Member and LGBT Caucus Member Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16).  H.Res.351 passed in committee by a unanimous voice vote.

“This resolution demands that Russian and Chechen authorities end the violence against innocent men in Chechnya, and hold the perpetrators accountable.  The rights to personal safety, freedom of association and freedom from violence are universal values, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, or any other characteristic,” said LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01).  “I commend Rep. Ros-Lehtinen for introducing this resolution and for her ongoing leadership on LGBT equality.  I also thank Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for making passage of this resolution a priority and their dedication to ending this horrible situation in Chechnya.  We hope that Speaker Ryan will call a floor vote on this resolution and show the world that the United States is still a leader on human rights for all.”

Since early March, Chechen law enforcement officials have arrested and detained over 100 gay men in prisons, with reports of torture and starvation. Initial reports and confirmation by human rights organizations confirmed three deaths, with up to 20 deaths now reported. Both the U.S. State Department and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have condemned the reports. On April 7th, 2017, Rep. Cicilline and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) led a bipartisan letter signed by 50 members of Congress calling on Secretary of State Tillerson to condemn the violence during his trip to Russia.

Please contact Roddy Flynn at 202-257-8416 or roddy.flynn@mail.house.gov with press inquiries.

The mission of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. The bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus is strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. By serving as a resource for Members of Congress, their staff, and the public on LGBT issues, the Caucus works toward the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and wellbeing for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

USAID Nominee Should Affirm that Investments in LGBT Development Have Real Impact

President Trump has nominated Ambassador Mark Green as the new Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  The Council looks forward to his confirmation hearing, where we trust he will affirm USAID’s commitment to inclusive development that recognizes LGBT citizens as both agents and beneficiaries of effective U.S. development assistance.

The Council has worked closely with USAID to ensure that LGBT individuals are included in the full range of human rights, health, economic empowerment and development assistance policies that the United States carries out abroad.  We are particularly pleased that the Agency has adopted new regulations prohibiting USAID and its partners from discriminating against LGBT or other minority communities when providing taxpayer-funded goods and services from the American people.

During his confirmation hearing, we hope Ambassador Greene pledges to uphold the principle that USAID must not discriminate against LGBT communities, and that he affirms the Agency’s ongoing commitment to integrating the needs of LGBT populations into all sectors of development support.

Please watch this video to hear how our investments in LGBT development can have real impact on human lives.

Ros-Lehtinen, Engel, Issa, Cicilline, Royce, and Smith Introduce Bipartisan Resolution on Violence in Chechnya

United States CongressMay 23, 2017

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement after introducing bipartisan resolution, H. Res. 351, condemning the violence and persecution in Chechnya. Joining Ros-Lehtinen in introducing this resolution were U.S. Reps. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Royce (R-CA), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Click to read the full resolution

Statement by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen: “For over a month, hundreds of gay or perceived to be gay Chechens have been arrested, many have been tortured, and some even killed. This bipartisan resolution sends a clear message to Chechnya and Russia authorities and any oppressor that the U.S. will not stand idly while these human rights atrocities are being committed. The U.S. government needs to continue to speak up to help those who are being indiscriminately targeted, and we must pressure Russia to uphold its international commitment to prevent any further abuses from happening while perpetrators are brought to justice.”   

Statement by Rep. Engel: “We’ve heard chilling reports of authorities in Chechnya detaining, torturing, and even killing men from the LGBT community over the last several weeks. We are witnessing the unfolding of a horrific tragedy and it’s long past time that the Kremlin start protecting its own citizens—all of them—regardless of sexual orientation. That’s why I introduced this bipartisan resolution with my colleagues—to send a clear signal that Republicans and Democrats alike call on President Putin to respect and promote the dignity of all persons and provide safe haven for all those fleeing such horrific persecution.”

Governments Step Up for Reproductive Rights

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© 2016 Smita Sharma for Human Rights Watch

Repost from Human Rights Watch

‘She Decides’ Summit to Counter Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’

(Brussels) – Governments should pledge political and financial support for sexual and reproductive health to counter the United States’ “Global Gag Rule,” Human Rights Watch said today. The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden are hosting a summit in Brussels on March 2, 2017, to strengthen support for the “She Decides” funding initiative, which will support organizations affected by US restrictions and resulting cuts.

On his first full day in office, US President Donald Trump issued an expanded “Global Gag Rule,” or “Mexico City Policy,” which strips foreign nongovernmental organizations of all US health funding if they use funds from any source to offer information about abortions, provide abortions, or advocate liberalizing abortion laws. US law already prohibits using US funds for abortion in foreign family planning assistance.

“Governments, nongovernmental groups, and the private sector should stand with women and girls to protect their right to health,” said Nisha Varia, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The Trump administration’s damaging policy restricts women’s choices, pushes censorship of information about critical health options, and will reduce a wide range of health services in many countries that desperately need them.” Click to continue Reading.

Rex Tillerson’s Nomination

Rex TillersonWhen Rex Tillerson goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, he should be given the professional respect to which anyone of his achievement is entitled. But before he is confirmed, he owes the American people some clear answers.

With the title of America’s top diplomat comes responsibility for advancing a broad array of national interests. These include energy security, where Tillerson’s history of back-room deals for the benefit of Exxon shareholders may at least hold the appearance of some use.

But that history and style of operation raise questions, too, of Tillerson’s attachment to broader national interests and, indeed, to the American people. We want to see evidence of his past commitment to fighting the corruption that erodes the future of so many countries and their populations. We want to know what effort he made to ensuring that Exxon’s extraction of natural resources has benefited not only oligarchs and shareholder profits, but to the needs of countries where Exxon has engaged. And we want to understand how he will ensure that his 40-year history in the oil industry will not conflict with the interests of the American people through the full disclosure and explanation of his current and future financial relationship to this industry.

These questions go to the heart of Tillerson’s ethical moorings – important in turn to the respect he must command if he is to advance effectively American interests as Secretary of State. They also target the breadth of interests he must steer, if confirmed.

As a Washington-based advocacy organization that fights for fundamental rights and economic opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals around the world, we are particularly interested in learning how he will promote America’s longstanding interests in supporting democratic societies and vibrant economies that respect and empower minority citizens. Countries that respect the rights of minorities understand their commitment to democracy and make strong diplomatic and economic partners; countries that persecute their minorities do not make stable allies. Unfortunately, LGBTI individuals and religious minorities are among the most violently persecuted minorities in most countries. And some of the worst examples of such persecution, and indeed overtly hostile leadership, occur in countries that happen to be led by some of the world’s worst oligarchs and dictators, including Russia.

U.S. foreign policy has clear reason to promote sound economic development and fully inclusive prosperity, both of which reinforce long-term stability in the foreign partnerships we seek to build. Our country traditionally stands against human rights abuse for this and broader ethical reasons. We advocate for vibrant civil societies that enjoy fundamental freedoms, rights and protections rooted in the rule of law – rights and protections that shouldn’t be limited by national borders, of course, but that also strengthen business and cultural and social ties. We know that sound and inclusive global health policies maximize our country’s generous investments in global health and positively impact, too, the health interests of the American people. And all of these interests are tied intrinsically to success in both eroding the appeal of terrorism and reducing the risk of war.

If confirmed, Tillerson will be charged with building bilateral and multilateral commitment to these and other goals – often against the will and narrow interests of the many government leaders and other officials he has cultivated as CEO. That task is far more challenging, and requires far greater finesse, than does negotiating the price and terms for a commodity that a country’s oligarchs seek to sell.

As a measure of his commitment to human rights and democracy, we encourage discussion of whether Tillerson is prepared to push for full citizenship rights for disfavored LGBTI minority communities in many of the countries around the world where he led Exxon to make significant investments. We deserve to understand how he will prioritize these and other human rights concerns, and there is no better way to judge the balance he will take than to weigh his support for some of the most commonly persecuted minority communities around the world.

We urge that Tillerson speak clearly to these points, and to the leadership he would provide to advancing these paramount interests. We would far rather see policy guided by seasoned career diplomats for a time, than to leave these questions unanswered. A speedy confirmation might be in the narrow partisan interests of the President-elect – but not in the interests of our country.

SOGI Mandate Safeguarded in Face of Hostility

Joint Civil Society Press Statement
21 November 2016 (New York) — The United Nations mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) has been safeguarded despite hostile contestation at the 71st Session of the 3rd Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.
LGBTIQ activists and organizations around the world quickly mobilized to voice their concerns on the implications of the hostile resolution to national governments as well as at the United Nations headquarters in New York. A joint statement endorsed by 850 organizations from 157 countries around the world, highlighted the need for states to respect the authority of the Human Rights Council and to vote in favour of upholding the SOGI Independent Expert mandate.
“A lot can be accomplished when forces join hands. We are encouraged by this voting result and in the confirmation that States believe in the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. It is vital that the integrity of the Human Rights Council remains intact and is not further undermined in the Third Committee,” stated Jessica Stern, Executive Director, OutRight Action International, the only US based LGBTIQ organization with consultative status at the United Nations.
The SOGI Independent Expert position on the “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and gender identity (SOGI),” was mandated by the passing of a historic resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 on June 30 of this year, and is held by Vitit Muntarbhorn, a human rights expert from Thailand. A campaign of 628 nongovernmental organizations from 151 countries advocated for the adoption of the resolution and for the establishment of the position.
In early November, Botswana, on behalf of the African Group, presented a hostile resolution on the Human Rights Council Annual Report, specifically targeting the SOGI Independent Expert Mandate. The resolution contested the legality of the creation of the mandate, essentially arguing that SOGI are not universally recognized as human rights and are not codified in international law. The resolution called for an indefinite postponement of the mandate until consensus could be reached on the definition of SOGI and the legal basis to which the mandate was created, the African Group statement read,
“We are alarmed that the Council is delving into matters which fall essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States counter to the commitment in the United Nations Charter to respect the sovereignty of States and the principle of non-intervention. More importantly, it arises owing to the ominous usage of the two notions: sexual orientation and gender identity. We wish to state that those two notions are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.”
In response to the African Group resolution, submitted by Botswana, Monica Tabengwa, Botswana human rights activist and director of Pan Africa ILGA commented,
“We are deeply disappointed that Botswana led this fallacious move by the Africa Group to remove gains at the HRC to include SOGI protections within the existing human rights framework. Let us remind everyone that the SOGI mandate is about real people and their right to secure lives, to be free of violence and discrimination and that these lives can’t be postponed or deferred indefinitely. We deserve more from our governments”
The SOGI Independent Expert was created after adoption of a resolution in the Human Rights Council in June 2016, initiated by seven Latin American countries, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay. They, plus El Salvador (LAC 8), countered the African Group’s attempt to postpone the mandate by introducing an amendment to the resolution deleting the hostile paragraph.
An explanatory note provided by the eight Latin American countries on their submitted amendment in support of preserving the SOGI mandate and the integrity of the HRC reads,
“The seriousness of the consequences (…) lies in the fact that never before has a country or group of countries attempted to challenge a special procedures mandate by the Human Rights Council with an appointed and fully functioning mandate holder. (…) If the General Assembly reopens the Council’s annual report and use a selective approach to which resolution it seeks to block or defer indefinitely it would fundamentally undermine the authority granted to the Council by the General Assembly, thus having far reaching implications well beyond the specific resolution under consideration.”
While all 193 countries in the UN General Assembly had the right to vote, only 178 exercised their vote, resulting in the passing of the LAC 8 amendment, leading to the failure of the hostile resolution and dissipation of the immediate threat against the establishment of the SOGI Independent Expert. In total, 84 countries voted in favor of the LAC 8 amendment, 77 voted against the amendment, and 17 countries abstained from voting.
LGBTIQ civil society in the Asia and the Pacific region have vocalized their support for the SOGI Independent Expert, hoping that a representative from the region would help progress protections for people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. In response to the voting, Ryan Silverio, Regional Coordinator for the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus said,
“Today we are reminded of the fundamental mission of the Council, and the UN’s commitment to promote human rights and equality for all. We are encouraged by the open dialogue with ASEAN member states in the lead up of the vote, and are particularly thankful to Thailand for showing leadership to protecting this mandate,”
The failure of the proposed hostile resolution is significant not only because it reinstates the authority of the Human Rights Council, but it also allows forward movement on the work of the SOGI Independent Expert- a crucial stride in the UN’s commitment towards protecting the universality of human rights, especially for vulnerable communities. It reinforces the notion that people cannot be left behind and states must protect all people from discrimination and violence based on their SOGI.
“The SOGI Independent Expert position is vital in bringing to light the horrific acts of violence and discrimination many people face because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These abuses happen everywhere; no region or country is immune to them. Having concrete documentation showing the consequences of homophobia and transphobia on the lives of people and recommendations on how to address these challenges from an HRC Special Procedure mandate holder will help states take responsibility to protect LGBTQI persons. It will be much harder to ignore the facts,” commented Micah Grzywnowicz, trans activist and international advocacy advisor at RFSL, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights.
While the hostile resolution did not pass today, civil society has warned that future attempts to stop the progress of the SOGI Independent Expert are not out of the question.
The Expert will be tasked with assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and gaps, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and facilitating provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building and cooperation to help address violence and discrimination on these grounds.
“As always, the fight continues to ensure that States don’t cherry pick which human rights to protect. We must continue to be vigilant and to mobilize to ensure that universality and non-discrimination triumphs at all levels. We must also ensure that we are working together to create change which will benefit all LGBTIQ people. Safeguarding human rights principles remains prime to peace and security for all people everywhere, anytime,” said Steve Letsike, Director of Access Chapter 2, a South African LGBTIQ human rights organization.

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