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Rights group urges Hillary Clinton to speak out

GENEVA, Feb. 17 – A Pakistani spokesman for the UN’s Islamic bloc sparked outrage today after telling the UN’s top rights body that its 56 member states would ignore a scheduled UN rights panel on anti-gay violence, saying they were “disturbed” at the “attempted focus on certain persons” on the grounds of their “abnormal sexual behaviour,” which “have nothing to do with fundamental human rights.”

The Islamic announcement, obtained by the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch and posted on its website, is provoking sharp reactions from human rights activists.

UN Watch director Hillel Neuer today called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to condemn the “scandalous assault on the right of gays not to be put to death in countries like Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.”

“Human rights are universal and there is no religious exemption for barbaric violence against innocent human beings anywhere,” said Neuer, who lauded Clinton for her previous leadership on this issue at the UN.

“We’re alarmed by a steady drumbeat against gays by powerful countries,” said Neuer. “Because this latest outrage follows a Libyan speech to the UN this week accusing gays of threatening the continuation of the human race, we are deeply concerned that anti-democratic regimes may be laying the groundwork for a new round of anti-gay violence and persecution.”

Diplomatic sources have also reported to UN Watch that the Islamic states are considering a walk-out during the March 7th panel.

The letter by Pakistan’s Geneva envoy Zamir Akram on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—comprised of 56 Islamic UN member states and the Palestinian Authority—was sent on Valentine’s Day to UN Human Rights Council president Laura Dupuy Lasserre and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Click here for letter.

The OIC declared its unequivocal opposition to the upcoming March 7th panel discussion concerning a new UN report on discriminatory laws and practices and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The OIC will “will not accept its considerations and recommendations.”

The unprecedented panel and report were mandated by the council’s historic June 2011 resolution, which passed by a slim majority of 23 to 19, with 3 abstentions.

The OIC letter said the panel on anti-gay violence addresses “controversial notions” that have “no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument,” “misinterpreting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The OIC warned the debate would “seriously jeopardize the entire international human rights framework,” and “shift the focus from the real issues that deserve the attention of the Council.”

“The Panel will discuss issues that relate to personal behavior and preferences, and have nothing to do with fundamental human rights,” said the OIC.

To justify its position, the OIC cited UN language, seemingly giving exemptions to universal rights laws, that “historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind. From this perspective, the issue of sexual orientation is unacceptable to the OIC.”

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