UNHRC President Announces Vitit Muntarbhorn as Proposed Candidate for SOGI Independent Expert Position

viti muntarbhorn
Photo courtesy of the United Nations

On 30 August 2016, the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) announced Vitit Muntarbhorn, from Thailand, as his chosen candidate for the Independent Expert on the “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).” The position was mandated by the passing of resolution A/HRC/RES/32/2. The historic resolution passed on June 30th,  by a vote of 23 in favor, 18 against, and 6 abstentions.

The HRC President made his choice from a short list of three candidates submitted to him by an appointed Consultative Group, which placed Muntarbhorn at the top of the list. The group interviewed a total of five potential candidates from an eligible list of 21 who applied before submitting the three names to the President.

Along with this position, the HRC President also proposed candidates for the four remaining vacancies of special procedure mandate holders who will also be appointed, with approval from the Member States of the HRC, on September 30th, at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council. The Independent Expert will serve a three year term with the possibility of holding the position for a maximum of six years.

The Independent Expert will be tasked with assessing implementations of existing international human rights law; identifying best practices and gaps; raising awareness of violence and discrimination based on SOGI; engaging in dialogue and consultation with States and other stakeholders; facilitation provision of advisory services, technical assistance, capacity-building, and cooperation to address violence and discrimination on the grounds of SOGI.

From the OHCHR website - “Vitit Muntarbhorn is a Professor of Law at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, teaching international law, human rights, law of regional organizations, migration and refugee law, child rights, international humanitarian law, and European Union law. Since 2012, he has been serving as a Commission on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. He formerly served as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornorgraphy, and was the Chair of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Ivory Coast in 2011. He has also worked extensively with non-governmental organizations in the field of human rights, as well as with the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”

Muntarbhorn is a household name with LGBTI activists in Thailand, though is not an activist himself. He participated in the drafting of the Yogyakarta Principles and was a panelist at the launch of the Principles in Geneva in 2007. He engages with National Human Rights Institutes in the Asia-Pacific region on broad human rights issues, including the rights of LGBTI communities. Muntarbhorn acted as a Technical Advisory Group member of the joint United Nations Development Programme, US Agency for International Affairs, and Swedish International Development Agency’s, ‘Being LGBTI in Asia’ initiative.