Costa-Rican legal expert appointed as new UN LGBTI watchdog

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, a Costa-Rican jurist, is the new UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

His appointment follows the shock resignation in September of Vitit Muntarbhorn, the first-ever person to hold the position, due to poor health.

Madrigal-Borloz currently serves as the Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and spent many years in the Inter-American Court and Commission of Human Rights.

He also served as Member of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture, where he was responsible for drafting the policy on LGBTI persons.

The founding of the role of the UN Independent LGBTI Expert has been a controversial one and followed a contentious battle between UN member states, including South Africa.

In June 2016, South Africa abstained in the landmark vote at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to create the global LGBTI watchdog position, a move seen as a betrayal of the LGBTI community and the country’s constitutional values.

Months later, following a wave of negative publicity against South Africa’s stance, it reversed its position and voted against two attempts by African countries to suspend the UN LGBTI expert.

The UN expert is tasked with assessing the implementation of existing international human rights law on sexual orientation and gender identity, raising awareness of violence and discrimination suffered by LGBTI communities, engaging in dialogue and cooperating with States to implement measures, and providing advice and technical assistance where needed.

Madrigal-Borloz’s appointment was welcomed by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

“While focusing his work on torture prevention and accountability, Mr. Madrigal-Borloz witnessed the multiple layers of violence and discrimination faced by LGBTI persons worldwide, maintaining an intersectional approach in his analysis that deeply matters to our communities,” commented Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-secretaries general of ILGA.

“The expertise that he has in navigating international human rights fora, always listening to the voices of civil society, is particularly fitting for the role that he will take on,” they said.

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