Vitit Muntarbhorn appointed as first UN Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Geneva, Switzerland. October 5, 2016. The appointment of Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand as the first UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) marks an important step forward in the international effort to protect the rights of LGBTI people around the globe.

On September 30, 2016, the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC) announced Mr. Muntarbhorn as his chosen candidate to be the Independent Expert for the “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” The Independent Expert will serve a three-year term with the possibility of holding the position for a maximum of six years. The position was mandated by the passage of the historic resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2 on June 30, by a vote of 23 in favor versus 18 against, with 6 abstentions. For more information about the resolution, see our article here.

The initiative to establish this important mandate was led by several States from the Americas, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay.

The Independent Expert will be tasked with assessing the implementation of existing international human rights law, identifying best practices and shortcomings, raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on SOGI, engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders, and providing advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building, and cooperation to address violence and discrimination on the grounds of SOGI.

Mr. Muntarbhorn is a Professor of Law at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. Since 2012, he has served as a Commissioner on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and has served on many United Nations bodies throughout his career. (Find his full bio in here). Furthermore, he was the Co-Chair of the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

As the Council appointed the new mandate-holders on the last day of its session, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the OIC, except for Albania) as well as the Russian Federation reiterated their position, already expressed during the 32nd session, that they do not recognize and will not cooperate with the new Independent Expert for protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights welcomes the appointment, especially in light of the grave human rights violations LGBTI people suffer in Latin America, with many of the most vulnerable persons being Afro-descendant LGBTI people and transgender women of color. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration with the newly installed Independent Expert in the coming years.

For more information, please contact our Legal Adviser in Geneva, Laia Evia, at Evia@raceandequality.org

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