Victor Madrigal-Borloz Appointed Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Victor Madrigal-Borloz
Credit: Victor Madrigal

On December 4, 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Victor Madrigal-Borloz as the new Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity to replace Vitit Muntarbhorn, who resigned for personal reasons. [OHCHR Press Release: Announcement] Madrigal-Borloz is expected to begin his term as the new Independent Expert on January 1, 2018. [OutRight International] The Human Rights Council first created this special procedure mandate in a resolution adopted in November 2016 after a controversial debate. [OHCHR Press Release: New Mandate] The mandate is up for renewal in 2019, at which time, assuming the mandate is renewed, Madrigal-Borloz will be able to serve an additional three years. [OutRight International] In addition to being the current Secretary General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Madrigal-Borloz has served on the Board of Directors of the International Justice Resource Center since 2011.

Madrigal-Borloz & Muntarbhorn

Madrigal-Borloz brings a variety of experience to the role, having previously worked at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where he was the founding staff member for the unit on LGBTI persons’ rights. He has also previously served a term as a member of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), a UN human rights treaty body. See IJRC, Victor Madrigal-Borloz. As detailed in his application, with regard to the rights of LGBTI persons’, Madrigal-Borloz’s work has included serving as the SPT’s rapporteur on LGBTI matters in 2014 and 2015, during which time he spearheaded the SPT’s policy on this issue, and leading the Inter-American Commission’s preparation of a plan of action regarding the rights of LGBTI persons.

He was chosen out of an original list of 11 candidates who applied to replace Muntarbhorn.

Muntarbhorn was the first person to hold this mandate and assumed the position of Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in September 2016. Muntarbhorn had previously served on other UN bodies, including as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, and as a commissioner on the Independent International Commission of inquiry on Syria. See OHCHR, Vitit Muntarbhorn.

Mandate of the Independent Expert

The mandate of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was first announced on July 8, 2016. [OHCHR Press Release: New Mandate] The Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity is tasked with assessing the implementation of existing international human rights instruments, raising awareness of violence and discrimination against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, engaging in dialogue with States and other stakeholders, working with States to encourage implementation of laws and measures that reduce violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and conducting capacity-building and international cooperation to support States and national efforts to combat discrimination. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 32/2, Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/32/2, 30 June 2016, paras. 3(a)-(f). The Independent Expert may also receive complaints regarding alleged instances of discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. See IJRC, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Independent Expert is required to report annually to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. See UN Human Rights Council, Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, para. 4. Muntarbhorn, as Independent Expert, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council at its 35th Session and a report to the 72nd UN General Assembly. See Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, UN Doc. A/HRC/35/36, 19 April 2017; Report of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, UN Doc. A/72/172, 19 July 2017. Those reports reviewed the relevant international human rights standards and some of the more prevalent rights violations affecting LGBTI persons.

Background

The creation of the mandate on sexual orientation and gender identity was controversial, with 23 Human Rights Council Member States voting in favor of its creation, 18 voting against, and six abstaining. [OHCHR Press Release: New Mandate] See UN Human Rights Council, Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, at 3. The breakdown in voting was largely geographical. No African State voted in favor of the resolution, but instead voted against it or abstained. See id. All States from Western Europe and other States voted for the motion. See id. States from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America and Caribbean were split in their votes. See id.

This special procedure mandate was created five years after the UN Human Rights Council’s very first adoption of a resolution that addressed sexual orientation and gender identity. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 17/19, Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/17/19, 14 July 2011. That 2011 resolution asked the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct a study on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and how international human rights law can help curb that violence. See id. The OHCHR published its report later that same year, and published another updated report on the same topic in 2015. [IJRC]

Additional Information

For more information on the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, UN special procedures, or sexual orientation and gender identity, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. To stay up-to-date on international human rights law news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.