United Nations headquarters – Photo: Fernanda LeMarie, Cancilleria de Ecuador, via Wikimedia.
On Monday, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations formally confirmed Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a Costa Rican national residing in Copenhagan, as the new United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He replaces Thai human rights expert Vitit Muntarbhorn, who stepped down from the position earlier in the year for health reasons.
Madrigal-Borloz is the second person to ever hold the independent expert position, which is typically a six-year term that is up for renewal in 2019. He previously served as a lawyer with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, where he investigated allegations of state non-compliance and international human rights violations. He currently serves as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, which advocates for holistic rehabilitation for all victims of torture.
The independent expert position was created via passage of a resolution 32/2, which seeks to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and violence. Under the mandate in the resolution, the independent expert must assess the implementation of various human rights laws, identify and address the root causes of anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination, and work with individual nations and coalitions to combat such discrimination.
In carrying out the mandate, Madrigal-Borloz will be expected to hold various nations responsible when they commit violence or discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, undertake fact-finding missions to investigate claims of violence and discrimination, and submit annual reports to the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly.
However, some UN member states have resisted creating the independent expert position, in part due to their opposition to linking sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics with human rights. Some of those member states opposed to any recognition of LGBTQ rights include Belarus, Russia, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, minus Albania.
Jessica Stern, the executive director of OutRight International, released a statement praising Madrigal-Borloz as a good choice for the position.
“Madrigal-Borloz brings with him extensive experience working to protect the most marginalized communities, which will lend well to his success as the new Independent Expert,” Stern said. “This position is about applying existing human rights law to LGBTI people and defending real lives. It is about holding governments to account for the egregious human rights violations committed against people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. OutRight looks forward to continuing to engage with this mandate and to the momentum that Madrigal-Borloz will bring to this position.”