Cameron’s “imperial mentality”: A Caribbean perspective

Gifford (second from R) with J-FLAG activists in a 2010 Kingston protest

Watch this video, from Jamaican TV, of an interview with British – Jamaican human rights lawyer Lord Anthony Gifford. As a strong supporter of scrapping Jamaica’s sodomy law, he lays out the arguments against the UK’s noisy and confused promises to tie development aid to LGBT rights.

He’s right that open threats to Jamaica from abroad almost always create a “converse reaction.” But one thing I find troubling is his blanket claim that Jamaica, as a democracy, is in a different class from dictatorships, and can work this out for itself.  “To use this stick against a democracy like Jamaica –we are capable of having this debate within Jamaica … and I think it’s counterproductive.” How exactly does this differ from arguments that Israel supporters (including one of Human RIghts Watch’s founders) use to contend that human rights activists should leave the country alone?

Thirty years ago, Gifford was lead counsel for the plaintiff in the landmark case of Dudgeon v United Kingdom, where the European Court of Human Rights compelled Britain to eliminate Northern Ireland’s sodomy law. And the video below shows  Gifford and my activist friends Maurice Tomlinson and Yvonne McCalla Sobers discussing their new challenge to the Jamaican law before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights:

Groundbreaking inter-American support for LGBTI rights

it almost looks like a rainbow

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the international body monitoring rights in the Americas, has created a special unit to investigate violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex people. Dozens if not hundreds of activists from across Latin America and the Caribbean lobbied for this result for years. Congratulations to them on their success.

The IACHR press release (Spanish here):

IACHR CREATES UNIT ON THE RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANS, AND INTERSEX PERSONS

Washington, D.C., November 3, 2011—During its 143rd regular session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) decided to create a Unit on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons, in order to strengthen its capacity to protect their rights. 

In recent years the IACHR has closely followed the situation of the rights of LGBTI persons, primarily through precautionary measures, hearings, country visits, and promotional activities. The Commission has sought to protect and promote their rights and has witnessed the serious human rights violations that many of these individuals face in their daily lives. 

The Commission has confirmed that LGBTI persons face serious discrimination, both in fact and in law, in the countries of the region. Among other violations, the IACHR has received information about murders, rapes, and threats to which LGBTI persons are victims. In addition, LGBTI persons face significant barriers in their access to health, employment, justice, and political participation. 

 The new Unit is part of the comprehensive approach the IACHR has adopted through its Strategic Plan, which promotes the harmonious development of all its work areas based on the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights and the need to protect the rights of all individuals and groups historically subjected to discrimination.

 Next year the Commission will evaluate the Unit’s work and whether sufficient resources exist to make its efforts sustainable, along with the overall functioning of its Strategic Plan, and will decide on whether to create an Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.