UN Rights Chief Divides General Assembly on LGBT Rights
NEW YORK, October 20 (C-Fam) Nations celebrated the 50th anniversary of two foundational human rights treaties on Wednesday by alternately praising and criticizing UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad for using his post to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.
Zeid, a Jordanian Prince and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has provoked controversy on several occasions.
On Wednseday, Zeid told delegates in a packed conference room at UN headquarters that friction and division was necessary and instrumental to “developing new human rights standards” and norms.
He chided Egypt for suggesting he should refrain from promoting issues “on which there is no consensus”—understood to refer here to LGBT rights. Zeid said “the slave trade would have never ended” unless controversy was stirred around the issue.
He echoed less guarded remarks delivered Tuesday in the General Assembly by his countryman and Chair of the UN committee that monitors the implementation of the UN treaty on social and economic right, Mr. Waleed Sadi.
“These issues are hotly disputed and discussed in traditional societies,” Sadi said. “It is a matter of friendly persuasion, keeping the momentum of pressure on countries and to show them that adherence need not come in conflict with traditions.”
Sadi described the role of the UN bureaucracy and treaty bodies in interpreting of UN treaties as “putting flesh on a skeleton.” He explained, perhaps condescendingly, that “many countries fail to comprehend the full import of the provisions” or “understand what the covenants are about.”
In fact, diplomats and jurists who negotiated the two UN treaties in 1966 did not consider LGBT rights. Zeid’s approach has been that the treaties are “living” documents whose meaning can change from year to year.
Countries complained that reading new LGBT rights into these treaties did not respect their sovereignty, religion, and values, and that as an interference in internal matters it violated the UN Charter.
China, Iran, Eritrea, Belarus, Indonesia, and Russia, and Egypt were among the states that delivered critical remarks of Zeid’s performance as top UN human rights official. The tension was such that a Russian delegate called Zied “imbalanced.”
At the same time, delegates from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Argentina, praised him specifically for promoting LGBT rights.
Zeid replied to his critics that the UN Charter only bars interference in internal matters that involves “coercive power,” and that mere statements on policy and political matters could not be rise to that level.
Zeid made disparaging comments last week about US presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. The Jordanian Prince called Trump “dangerous” during a video message from Geneva that was widely reported in the mainstream media as unprecedented interference in US elections by a high ranking UN official.
Instead of confronting Zeid, U.S. diplomats who attended the meeting offered supportive questions to discredit states that do not cooperate with UN bureaucrats. A U.S. diplomat present at the meeting told the Friday Fax that any comments about politics at the UN were barred by “congressional mandates.”