Advocacy statements

Silence of Human Rights Council on ISIS crimes

  • Date / 2015
  • Location / Iraq
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 2: Annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 30th Session (14th September – 2nd October 2015)

General Debate, Item 2/10

The extreme cruelty and violence we are witnessing in Iraq [ref A/HRC/30/66] is so revolting and inhuman that it highlights the Council’s relative impotence to act in the face of such brutality. It also reminds us of our failure to help foster a human rights climate in the affected region. For, this violence is not without context. We might recall that prior to the debauched brutality of ISIS against homosexual men, in Iraq such men were subjected to death threats and torture.[1] Previous to ISIS’ sexual enslavement of women, the Iraqi Parliament drafted a law that sought to legalize rape, prohibit women leaving home without their husbands’ permission, and legalize marriage for 9-year-olds.[2]

The Council’s failure to do more in the face of ISIS is one thing; and indeed, as recognised by the High Commissioner, its resources are severely limited,[3] but its failure to speak out in defence of universal human rights in the face of such demonstrative denial by ISIS [that is, for the human rights of LGBT people and women] is quite another. Its words have normative force. And it owes the Iraqis to use them wisely.

Of course no representative in this forum would say it is OK to throw a man off a building because he is gay. But they would, and have, expressed their abhorrence of LGBT rights[4].

Of course no representative in this forum would say it is OK to force women into sexual slavery, but they would, and have, denied the existence of marital rape,[5] and continue to include a country with gender apartheid as a member[6].

The Council needs to say with one clear voice: We are all equal agents in possession of the same human rights, regardless of our gender, what we believe, and whom we love. It needs to promote clear universalism, because without that there is a very slippery slope – a slope that more young gay men will be pushed off to meet their death…


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/21/iraqi-gays-suffer-atrocit_n_189732.html

[2] https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/11/iraq-dont-legalize-marriage-9-year-olds

[3] In his opening statement, the High Commission noted the Council’s lack of resources to deal with the human rights violations across the world. See: http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/(httpNewsByYear_en)/A6E1EE722FB13A46C1257EC00035556B?OpenDocument

[4] http://iheu.org/iheu-criticises-oic-countries-and-allies-for-their-position-on-lgbt-rights/

[5] http://iheu.org/cultural-practices-and-religious-specificities-and-the-shame-of-some-states-at-the-human-rights-council/

[6] Saudi Arabia has been a member of the Council since 2013

Suggested academic reference

'Silence of Human Rights Council on ISIS crimes', Humanists International

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