Posts Tagged 'Congress'

United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights Conditions

United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights ConditionsOn December 30, the United States submitted its fourth periodic report to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights concerning the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is one of the most important human rights treaties that the United States has ratified. In a major departure from a prior Bush Administration report, sexual orientation and gender identity issues featured prominently in this current submission, with an honest and reflective perspective on the state of LGBT rights in the United States. The report chronicles recent progress made to advance LGBT equality at the federal and state levels, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the passage of hate crime legislation, support for a variety of family recognition mechanisms, and the legal recognition of gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

When the United States presented its last report to the Committee on Human Rights in 2006, the U.S. delegation tried to deny the application of longstanding sexual orientation and gender identity protections under the ICCPR, even though the Committee has recognized rights to privacy and non-discrimination for LGBT individuals since at least 1992.  During that 2006 review, a member of the UN Committee noted publicly that the U.S. delegation, which included the head of the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department, demonstrated a lack of awareness of the “longstanding and consistent” jurisprudence of the Committee on these issues.  The UN expert expressed his concern that by denying the existence of these rights under the ICCPR, the U.S. government might suggest that persons of diverse sexual orientations and identities are not fully entitled to the rights to life and privacy under the treaty.  In contrast, by reporting so extensively on LGBT-related concerns in this current UN report, the Obama Administration has now made an unequivocal legal statement recognizing that international law protects the human rights of all individuals, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Indeed, this is the legal justification for Secretary Clinton’s emphatic assertion that “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.” Continue reading ‘United States Issues UN Report on Its Own Human Rights Conditions’

Congressman Eliot Engel calls on Honduran government to end impunity for human rights abuses directed at the country’s LGBT community

At a Congressional hearing in Washington this week, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, called on the Honduran government to take action to end impunity for murders and other human rights abuses that have been directed at the country’s LGBT community.  In his remarks, he noted that 2009 “was especially brutal for Honduras’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Attacks on the LGBT community escalated substantially starting in June with 19 known murders of prominent members of the LGBT community.”  Many of those attacks are detailed in the annual State Department Human Rights Report, which was released by Secretary Clinton last week.  See an excerpt of all LGBT human rights references in the State Department report, including the egregious abuses in Honduras.

Engel also noted that “non-lethal attacks and other violent acts against LGBT individuals were reported on an alarming scale, and additional murders have gone unreported. The human rights defenders who have documented these abuses have been threatened and the atmosphere of intimidation for members of the LGBT community remains high.”

At the hearing, Engel released a letter that he had sent, together with Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), to U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens urging him to work with the new President of Honduras to curb LGBT violence. (A copy of that letter is available here.)  Ambassador Llorens responded immediately, emphasizing his commitment to addressing LGBT violence as a top priority.  (Read the Ambassador’s response here.)

Severe Human Rights Abuses against LGBT People Documented in State Department Report to Congress

Washington, DC – March 11, 2010 – The Council for Global Equality applauds this year’s State Department human rights report to Congress for underscoring the clear and growing crisis in human rights abuse directed against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide, and urges the use of diplomacy to counter this trend.

In introducing the report, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, singled out the case of Uganda, where introduction of a draconian anti-gay bill has resulted in serious abuse directed against Uganda’s LGBT community.  The report further documents LGBT-related incidents in almost every country in the world, including a range of cases involving arbitrary arrest and detention, police abuse, rape, and murder.  For instance, the report notes serious assaults against LGBT individuals in Jamaica, “including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of such persons.”  In Iraq, the report notes that “numerous press reports indicate that some victims were assaulted and murdered by having their anuses glued shut or their genitals cut off and stuffed down their throats until they suffocated.”  The report highlights numerous instances in which police and other authorities have failed to investigate or prosecute such incidents.

Council Chair Mark Bromley, while recognizing that the State Department report examines a broad range of human rights concerns impacting various minority communities, nonetheless emphasized that “the level of reporting on LGBT abuses this year is remarkably detailed and truly commendable, and unfortunately this new level of detail shows just how dangerous it is for LGBT individuals to go about their daily lives as ordinary citizens in so many parts of the world.”  For the first time ever, most of the reports have a dedicated section examining “societal abuses, discrimination, and acts of violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”  Bromley insisted that “the report makes clear that LGBT rights are firmly rooted in basic human rights protections and that those protections are under severe attack in the world today.

Senior Council adviser and former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest applauded “President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s principled belief that the human rights of LGBT people cannot be separated from those of all of society.”  Emphasizing that “many of the most egregious abuses have been committed in countries considered to be friends and allies of the United States,” he urged that the State Department develop strategies to counter intolerance and homophobia in every region, drawing on all the tools of American diplomacy.

Julie Dorf, another senior adviser to the Council, noted that “the Council has been working closely with the State Department over the past year to help move the Department’s human rights bureau from a traditional human rights reporting agenda to an active, human rights protection agenda.”  Dorf explained that “in an ironic and unfortunate way, the intensity of the homophobia surrounding the ‘kill the gays’ bill in Uganda has helped raise awareness within the State Department, within Congress and within the international community more generally on the global impact of LGBT discrimination and abuse.”

Excerpts of the report’s findings on LGBT issues in every country can be found on the Council’s website at www.globalequality.org.


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