John M. Becker

UN Human Rights Panel Addresses 'Ex-Gay' Torture

Filed By John M. Becker | November 12, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: #BornPerfect, NCLR, UN, UNCAT, United Nations, United Nations Committee Against Torture

united-nations-geneva.jpgThe United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) addressed the issue of "ex-gay" conversion therapy for the first time in Geneva, Switzerland today, questioning representatives of the U.S. Department of State about the practice and asking why it is allowed to continue in the country.

The Associated Press reports that the meeting came during a routine review of the United States' obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which prohibits all "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The committee, which consists of ten independent human rights experts from around the world, is responsible for periodically reviewing the human rights records of all 156 U.N. member nations that have ratified the Convention.

Yesterday, the CAT heard from Samantha Ames of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Samuel Brinton, a survivor of "ex-gay" therapy. The two traveled to Geneva as part of NCLR's #BornPerfect campaign, which seeks to end the dangerous and discredited practice of attempting to change a person's sexual orientation within five years.

More details after the break.

Ames writes on Facebook that in addition to questions about conversion therapy -- which has been denounced by every major mainstream organization of medical and mental health professionals as ineffective and potentially dangerous -- the panel asked the State Department about the treatment of transgender detainees:

Over the past two years or so, the United Nations has shown an increased willingness to stand up for LGBT human rights around the world. In 2013, it launched Free & Equal, a major global outreach campaign for LGBT equality, and just last September, the U.N. Human Rights Council approved a resolution condemning and expressing "grave concern" about discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

And in early 2013, a panel at the United Nations Church Center directly addressed fraudulent "gay cure" efforts for the first time.

"Ex-gay" therapy wasn't the only topic on the CAT's agenda during the U.S. review. According to the AP, the panel grilled State Department officials on a variety of alleged violations:

At the start of a two-day hearing, Alessio Bruni of Italy, one of the panel's chief investigators, told the high-level U.S. delegation that it must answer for alleged violations ranging from CIA rendition at so-called black sites to police brutality and Guantanamo Bay conditions. He asked what concrete measures have been taken to implement President Barack Obama's "clear" directives against torture.

A day earlier, the committee took private testimony from death penalty experts, anti-torture activists, former Guantanamo Bay detainee Murat Kurnaz and the parents of Michael Brown, the victim in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting case that has riveted a nation. A decision is expected later this month about whether Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, will face criminal charges for fatally shooting Brown, 18, who was black and unarmed.

The State Department's acting legal adviser, Mary McLeod, acknowledged that the United States' post-9/11 torture record "did not always live up to our own values," but added that "the United States has taken important steps to ensure adherence to its legal obligations."

UPDATE: The NCLR reports via press release:

CAT members Jens Modvig of Denmark, Sabtyabhoosun Gupt Domah of Mauritius, and Sapana Pradhan Malla of Nepal, repeatedly asked U.S. Department of State representatives why conversion therapy is still being practiced on LGBT youth despite the fact that it has been condemned by every major medical organization, and is known to lead to severe depression and even suicide.

"Today, for the first time, a United Nations committee recognized that conversion therapy is an issue of international human rights," said Ames, NCLR's #BornPerfect Campaign Coordinator. "We are incredibly grateful to the Committee Against Torture for raising up the voices of conversion therapy survivors, and ensuring their suffering is finally being vindicated. Today was a historic day for LGBT people in the United States and around the world. There is no going back."

"Hearing CAT bring this issue forward is a moment I will never forget," said Brinton, a co-chair of the #BornPerfect Advisory Committee who testified about his experience as a conversion therapy survivor. "Survivors generally feel that no one cares about the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment we suffered in conversion therapy. Somebody cares now. The Committee just used its voice to bring this issue forward and we survivors are never going to be silenced again."

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