UN LGBTI vote: SAHRC warns of SA’s “waning commitment” to human rights

SAHRC Chairman Lawrence Mushwana

SAHRC Chairman Lawrence Mushwana

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it is concerned that South Africa recently abstained in a vital vote on LGBTI rights at the UN.

Last month, the country shocked human rights groups after it chose to abstain in the vote to appoint a global LGBTI watchdog at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

Just before the vote, South Africa’s ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko lashed out at the countries that sponsored the resolution.

She accused them of being “arrogant and confrontational”, of “grandstanding, recklessness, brinkmanship and point scoring” and of adding “divisive dimensions” to the council.

The resolution was approved by 23 countries and rejected by 18, with 6 abstentions. No African country voted in favour.

In a letter last week to International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, SAHRC Chairman Lawrence Mushwana revealed that he had earlier written to her urging South Africa to vote in support of the resolution.

“Regrettably, to date we have not had the courtesy of the Honourable Minister’s response,” said Mushwana, who only learned of the abstention through the media.

In the letter, he asserted the supremacy of the Constitution in all matters, including in its dealings with other countries. Mushwana warned that ‘South Africa’s commitment to [its constitutional] values and principles in its international relations seems to be waning”.

Mushwana has now requested a meeting with Minister Nkoana-Mashabane to address the issue, as well as government threats to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) following the furore over the state’s failure to detain Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit to South Africa in June last year.

Mushwana wrote that an exit from the ICC “will not bode well for the rule of law, a principle that South Africa has committed itself to”.

It was important for South Africa to maintain its leadership role on the continent regarding the protection and promotion of human rights, he added.

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