UN experts issue joint statement on defenders of LGBT people’s rights

Dublin/Washington DC – Wednesday March 23, 2022: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Defenders of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) persons are at risk everywhere, and their human rights work needs urgent recognition and protection, warned two UN experts today.

A joint statement issued today by Mary Lawlor and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN experts on human rights defenders (HRDs) and sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) respectively, outlined risks and specific protection needs for LGBT human rights defenders.

“Acceptance of the rights of LGBT people remains challenging. Many human rights defenders face severe retaliation for their work, and those who advocate for the rights of LGBT people often face additional risks,” said the experts.

The statement comes ahead of a 10-week long campaign, in the lead up to Pride month in June, comprising of individual video interviews with 10 SOGI rights defenders, aiming to give them a platform to speak about their life and work. “They work in vastly different contexts, but we hear similar concerns being raised again and again,” said the experts.

Threats, smear campaigns, violence, judicial harassment, and hate speech from public officials put them in constant danger. Lack of recognition of SOGI rights as human rights prevent them from establishing an environment fee from violence and discrimination.

“We are both in constant contact with SOGI rights defenders and we know how life-threatening their peaceful activism is,” said the experts. “But not everyone does, and it is time that to get the facts straight.”

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The first interview in the “Diversity in Adversity: stories from SOGI rights defenders” launches 30 March 2022, and will be followed weekly, with different personal stories told by different HRDs each week. The experts spoke at an online event on the margins of the UN HRC alongside a panel of SOGI rights defenders.

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Mr. Víctor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica) assumed the role of UN Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on 1 January 2018. He is a senior visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program. He served as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). A member of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, Mr Madrigal-Borloz was Rapporteur on Reprisals and oversaw a draft policy on the torture and ill-treatment of LGBTI persons. Prior to this, he led technical work on numerous cases, reports and testimonies as Head of Litigation and Head of the Registry at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and has also worked at the Danish Institute for Human Rights (Copenhagen, Denmark) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (San José, Costa Rica).

Ms Mary Lawlor (Ireland) isthe Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Business and Human Rights in Trinity College Dublin. She was the founder of Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. As Executive Director from 2001-2016, she represented Front Line Defenders and had a key role in its development. Ms. Lawlor was previously Director of the Irish Office of Amnesty International from 1988 to 2000, after becoming a member of the Board of Directors 1975 and being elected its President from 1983 to 1987.

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