UNITED NATIONS - African states launched a bid at the United Nations on Friday to halt the work of the first UN independent investigator appointed to help protect gay and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.
The 47-member UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, created the position in June and in September appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who has a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
In an unusual move, African states circulated a draft resolution on Friday in the 193-member UN General Assembly third committee, which deals with human rights, calling for consultations on the legality of the creation of the mandate.
"We therefore call for the suspension of the activities of the appointed Independent Expert pending the determination of this issue," Botswana's UN Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae, speaking for the 54-member Africa group, told the committee.
He said the group was concerned "non-internationally agreed notions such as sexual orientation and gender identity are given attention, to the detriment of issues of paramount importance such as the right to development and the racism agenda."
Ntwaagae said that sexual orientation and gender identity "are not and should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments."
The third committee could vote as early as Tuesday on the draft resolution, diplomats said. If adopted it would then need to be voted upon later this year by the General Assembly.
Being gay is a crime in at least 73 countries, the UN has said. The issue of gay rights consistently sparks heated debate at the United Nations.