The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) welcomes the creation of the office of United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. International human rights expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn, was officially appointed during the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council on Friday 30 September 2016, and holds tenure for three years.

According to UN resolution A/HRC/32/L.2/Rev.1,the mandate of the Independent Expert will include:

  • Assessing the implementation of existing international human rights instruments with regard to ways to overcome violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Raising awareness of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of violence and discrimination targeted at persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and
  • Working in cooperation with States in order to foster the implementation of measures that contribute to the protection of all persons against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Independent Expert will report annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

In relation to the appointment, IBAHRI Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC commented, ‘This marks a significant moment in the history of the fight for rights and freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and in the history of the United Nations. The appointment of Vitit Muntarbhorn as the first UN Independent Expert for the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is only the beginning, but it is an important one, recognising at UN-level the need for the protection of the rights of individuals in these groups.’ She added: ‘At the IBAHRI, we will ensure that wherever possible we will support the work of the Independent Expert to ensure progress continues on these very important issues.’

statement aiming to set a new agenda for the international human rights community was delivered by the IBAHRI at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council. It called on the UN Human Rights Council to address the:

  • Widespread state and interpersonal violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people;
  • Specific legal challenges of separate LGBTI persons, rather than treating them as a homogenous group;
  • Structural causes of violence and discrimination against the LGBTI community;
  • Need to reassess and resort to the applicable international legal framework and, in particular, the Yogyakarta Principles – a set of principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity; and
  • Need to involve civil society and the LGBTI community as well as key stakeholders, such as legal and health professionals, in training and national dialogue on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) issues, in order to foster the respect and promotion of the principles of universalism, non-discrimination and diversity.

The IBAHRI hopes that these main areas will receive priority attention from the Independent Expert.