HRC38: Oral statement in response to Independent Expert on SOGI and Special Rapporteur on free assembly and association


ARTICLE 19 delivered the following oral statement at the UN Human Rights council on 18 June in a joint interactive dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, which focused on global trends threatening these rights, and the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which highlighted the need to urgently end violence and discrimination against LGBT people. Both reports can be found on the OHCHR website.

UN Human Rights Council, 38th Session

18 June, 2018

Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the reports of both special procedures, and wishes everyone a happy pride month.

At its core, pride is about the rights of all people to express themselves, and to protest injustice. We share in the outrage at violence and discrimination against LGBT people, in particular targeting those exercising their rights to assemble, associate and speak out – these force countless others into self-censorship and must be condemned.

We agree with the independent expert that discriminatory laws create the hostile environment that exacerbate these violations, and which allow “hate speech” to flourish.

Laws in Belarus and Russia effectively prohibit speaking out in support of LGBT rights; bills in Kyrgyzstan and Moldova threaten to replicate them. In these and too many other countries, laws are applied to ban or refuse permission to pride events and protests. They not only target the expression of LGBT people, but deny others the opportunity to hear their voices, frustrating efforts to increase understanding and compassion that would address the root causes of violence and discrimination.

Laws on “hate speech”, rather than protect LGBT people, are too often applied to limit criticism of the government, including in Russia and Belarus. We agree that such laws, specifically prohibitions on incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence, must include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics, and themselves comply with free expression guarantees.

We regret the media often contribute to rather than combat hostility towards LGBT people. ARTICLE 19’s Camden Principles on freedom of expression and equality set out the professional and ethical responsibilities to avoid this, as well as the media’s role to provide a platform for LGBT voices. These principles, with our “hate speech tool kit”, form the basis of our programmatic work engaging media to end hate.

More broadly, we share the Special Rapporteur’s concern that civic space continues to shrink, including online. We welcome his intended focus on assembly and association rights in the digital arena, and urge that States reflect this priority in resolutions under consideration at this session, on the Internet, on civil society space, and on protest.