November 22, 2016 at 4:52 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
U.N. committee rejects effort to suspend LGBT expert

Vitit Munterbhorn, gay news, Washington Blade

Vitit Muntarbhorn (Photo courtesy of the U.N.)

A U.N. committee on Monday struck down a proposal that would have suspended the organization’s first-ever independent expert who monitors anti-LGBT discrimination and violence around the world.

The U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this year approved a resolution that created the position. It announced in September that it had named Vitit Muntarbhorn, an international law professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, to occupy it.

Botswana and other African countries earlier this month introduced a resolution that sought to suspend Muntarbhorn until the U.N. could debate the “legal basis” of his mandate.

The Associated Press reported Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay sought to remove the language from the resolution that called for Muntarbhorn’s suspension.

The U.S. was among the countries that voted for the amendment that passed by an 84-77 vote margin. Armenia, Barbados, Bhutan, Ecuador, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, the Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia and Trinidad and Tobago abstained.

More than 800 advocacy organizations from around the world expressed their opposition to efforts to block Muntarbhorn’s position.

“Today we are reminded of the fundamental mission of the council and the U.N.’s commitment to promote human rights and equality for all,” said Ryan Silverio of the ASEAN SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Caucus in a statement after the vote.

Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, also praised the vote’s outcome.

“A lot can be accomplished when forces join hands,” she said in a statement. “We are encouraged by this voting result and in the confirmation that states believe in the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council.”

Monday’s vote took place less than a week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he has named MP Randy Boissonnault as his special advisor on LGBT issues. Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry assumed his post within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in April 2015.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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