A month after Vitit Muntarbhorn stepped down as the U.N.s first international expert on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, his successor has been named: Victor Madrigal-Borloz was confirmed by the U.N. Human Rights Council this week and will serve a-six year term which is up for renewal in 2019.
“Madrigal-Borloz brings with him extensive experience working to protect the most marginalized communities,” said OutRight Action’s Jessica Stern. “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.”
Madrigal-Borloz, who is openly gay, has spent much of his career working against torture, both as an attorney with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). Born in Costa Rica and residing in Copenhagen, he served a four-year term as a member of the U.N. Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.
The International Expert position, which is unpaid, was first approved in 2016, despite several nations accusing the U.N. of disrespecting cultural mores. An effort to suspend Muntarbhorn lost a General Assembly vote by 77-86, with 16 abstentions.
He stepped down in October, citing an “illness in his household.”
In his sole address to the U.N. Muntarbhorn hinted at the frustration he faced: Few countries responded to his inquiries about human rights violations, he confessed, and he was never able to use public pressure to effect change. “Precisely because this mandate was so heated, so caustic, from the beginning, my humble intention during this year was to calm the situation through quiet engagement.”
More than 70 nations still criminalize homosexuality, some with the death penalty. And even where its not illegal LGBT people are persecuted under vague laws against public indecency or “debauchery.”
Madrigal-Borloz is expected take office on January 1, 2017.