Outgoing Human Rights Chief Attacks Panel on the Family, Raises Questions About Successor

By Rebecca Oas, Ph.D. | August 28, 2014

NEW YORK, August 29 (C-Fam) In one of her last appearances in that role, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told a gathering of left-wing groups to “watch out” for an upcoming panel in Geneva on protecting the rights of the family.

“It’s not clear who’s going to win the battle on which experts will be sitting on that panel,” said Navi Pillay, who complained, “It’s much easier when [I am] empowered to select the panelists, because then we can consult with all of you and we get people with expertise. But I’m saying too much…”

In July, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the “Protection of the Family,” despite opposition from the United States, the European Union, and others who viewed the singular form of “family” as excluding same-sex couples.

The resolution calls on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the protection of the rights of the family and to convene a panel discussion, which is scheduled for September 15.

Pillay said her office was debating over “whether we should get bogged down in defining what is family.”

Pillay has been an outspoken proponent of sexual orientation and gender identity, claiming they are protected human rights categories like race, ethnicity, and religion. Her office launched the “Free and Equal” campaign to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, which included materials using Mother Teresa’s image and quotes out of context.

The end of Pillay’s tenure as High Commissioner is sparking anxiety among some activists that her successor, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad of Jordan, will not share her enthusiasm for the LGBT cause.

“I have to express a certain amount of fear that as you’re leaving, what is the future going to be?” asked Bruce Knotts, the director of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office. “In the beginning of your administration, we made a lot of progress very quickly, with very little opposition. That’s now changed, and now there’s very stiff opposition.”

Pillay said she shared Knotts’ concern, and that Prince Zeid “said he would continue the work of the office as it was being done.” However she was less sure “about the level of focus.” She implied Zeid had objections to “creating a new standard” and did not want to “deal with issues that are not internationally accepted human rights norms.”

Pillay has inflamed controversy on several issues in addition to LGBT. In 2012, her post was renewed for only half a term after the United States attempted to block her altogether for her criticism of Israel.

Last month, over a hundred U.S. members of Congress wrote a letter denouncing her for alleging war crimes by Israel – “a nation defending its citizens from […] Hamas, a United States and European Union designated foreign terrorist organization.”

“The United Nations Human Rights Council simply cannot be taken seriously as a human rights organization,” the letter alleges, calling on Pillay and her office to “condemn the use of civilians as human shields.”