Tuesday, September 22, 2009

GOP Congresswoman Calls Out UN Homophobe

At a news conference in New York on September 18, the new president of the United Nations General Assembly, former Libyan foreign minister Ali Abdussalam Treki, said that he was opposed to the decriminalization of homosexuality and that, in fact, he favored those countries and traditions that continue to penalize their gay citizens.

According to a report by Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press -- and apparently the only report on Treki's remarks in the news media so far:

In a surreal press conference on September 18, the new Libyan president of the UN General Assembly Ali Abdussalam Treki veered from refusing to answer a question about his country's recent proposal to cut Switzerland into three parts because it is not on the Assembly's agenda to favoring the criminalization of homosexuality despite a General Assembly vote to the contrary only last year. Video here, from Minute 29:53.
(I noted the bizarre proposal to dismember Switzerland, derived from a personal vendetta of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, a few days ago.)

Lee goes on to say:
...when Treki was asked about the vote in the General Assembly last year urging the decriminalization of homosexuality, he was not as restrained or diplomatic. He said "that matter is very sensitive, very touchy. As a Muslim, I am not in favor of that... it is not accepted by the majority of countries." This last would seem to contradict the vote in the General Assembly last year.

Treki continued that some countries allow homosexuality, "thinking it a kind of democracy... I think it is not." While basing his statement on Islam -- he said there are "two billion" Muslim in the world -- he also said that "probably Jewish and Buddhist and Hindu" communities are against it. Video here, from Minute 29:53. Of course if it is raised in the 64th session, he conceded, the Assembly members will have to decide.
Be sure to click on the links to the video; it backs up Lee's report in Treki's own words.

In what may be the only political response to Treki's remarks from the United States (so far, at least), Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a statement of rebuke.

This is the text of a news release from the Congresswoman's office that landed in my email box a couple of hours ago (it is not yet posted to Ros-Lehtinen's official web site press release page):
Ros-Lehtinen Criticizes Anti-Gay Remarks by Libyan President of the UN General Assembly

Calls on Congress to cut funding to UN Agencies, pass Reform bill

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented today on recent remarks by Ali Abdessalam Treki, the new president of the United Nations General Assembly and former foreign minister of Libya, in favor of the criminalization of homosexual behavior. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
“The anti-gay bigotry spewed by this Qaddafi shill demonstrates once again that the UN has been hijacked by advocates of hate and intolerance.

“Likewise, the leadership of the UN Development Program is held by the Iranian regime, which denies the presence of gays in Iran even as it murders them and other innocent citizens.

“We must ensure that billions annually in U.S. taxpayer dollars no longer foot the bill for the UN’s anti-freedom agenda without significant reform.

“Congress must demand better by enacting pending legislation that would leverage our contributions to the UN to produce sweeping, meaningful reform of that body.”
Note: Ros-Lehtinen is the author of the United Nations Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act (H.R. 557), which seeks to combat anti-freedom bias within the UN. This bill enjoys the support of almost 100 cosponsors.
H.R. 557 so far has 97 cosponsors, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, and Cantor's fellow Virginia Congressmen Bob Goodlatte, Rob Wittmann, and Frank Wolf, as well as South Carolina's newly famous Second District Representative Joe Wilson. Among other things, the bill would:
[Withhold] U.S. contributions to the United Nations Human Rights Council until the Secretary certifies to Congress that the Council does not include a member state: (1) subject to Security Council sanctions; (2) under a Security Council-mandated investigation for human rights abuses; (3) subject, within the prior five years, to a country-specific resolution passed by the former U.N. Human Rights Commission; (4) which the Secretary has determined is a government that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism; or (5) which the President has designated as a country of particular concern for religious freedom.
Ros-Lehtinen deserves congratulations for her willingness to speak out against homophobic language by the leader of the United Nations General Assembly. The idea that, in the 21st century, people should be imprisoned, tortured, or executed for being gay is beyond the realm of civil discourse.

Let's hope that more of Ros-Lehtinen's colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, line up to offer their own condemnations of Ali Abdussalam Treki's Neanderthalism.

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Brad Minnick said...

Just a point of clarification for your readers. The position of Chair of the UNDP Executive Board rotates among member states on a geographic basis and is strictly for the purpose of administering and presiding at Board meetings. The Board Chair is not responsible for setting policy or directing operations. That is the responsibility of the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark.

As a gay man who currently works with the UNDP I want everyone to know that both Administrator Clark and the UN Secretary-General himself have spoken out forcefully and explicitly about protecting and promoting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, which is a matter of both human rights and public health, given the global HIV epidemic.

UNDP has also taken a clear and strong position on human rights issues related to sexual orientation and expression. In May 2008, UNDP committed to act as the lead agency in the UNAIDS family on HIV among men who have sex with men and transgender people.

Helen Clark, who became the UNDP Administrator in April, after nine years as Prime Minister of New Zealand, is strongly committed to these efforts. At her direction, UNDP officials are working with UNAIDS to develop and launch an ‘in-reach’ programme to sensitize, educate and motivate UN staff at the country level around these issues throughout the world, an effort that will be launched shortly with a pilot session in North Africa.

Rick Sincere said...

Brad Minnick left the same strange comment on GayPatriot.net.

I say "strange" because neither Dan Blatt nor I had anything to say about the UN Development Programme (UNDP) or its rotating president.

Our blog posts were both about the president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), who was characterized by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen as a "shill" for the meshugganah colonel, Moammar Gadhafi of Libya.

Neither of us mentioned the former New Zealand prime minister or anyone else connected with the UNDP.

Perhaps Mr. Minnick protests too much?