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At UN, Ban Stands By as Ali Treki Stands Behind Anti-Gay Comments, U.S. Yet to React

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By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Despite a vote in the UN last December supporting the decriminalization of homosexuality, not only the Libyan President of the General Assembly Ali Treki, but now also Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, refuse to follow through on that vote. 

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On September 18 in the UN briefing room, Ali Treki said homosexuality is "not acceptable." Inner City Press wrote the first, and for a time only, story about his comments. Soon, however, the quotes were picked up and denounced in the U.S. Congress, not only by Barney Frank of Massachusetts but also Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and by newspapers as far away as Australia.

On October 2, Treki held his next press conference, and Inner City Press twice asked him to respond to the criticism of his remarked. "I answered before," Treki replied, I have no need to answer again. Then, speaking of the Goldstone report, he said that "a violation of human rights in any country concerns the whole of humanity."

As Inner City Press told Treki, this is (for) news. Disparities between human rights pronouncements and their application to particular situations or groups of people seem newsworthy.

When Ban Ki-moon's Associate Spokesperson Farhan Haq took questions later on October 2, Inner City Press asked if the Secretariat had anything to say about homosexuality and human rights, whether there is a UN position on gay rights, and whether Ban Ki-moon thinks Treki's comments reflect well on the UN system.

The UN has no specific position expressed by member states, Mr. Haq said. And he and the Secretary General will have no comment on the President of the General Assembly's publicly stated position. Haq added that Ban supports the human rights of everyone.

Afterwards, it was explained to Inner City Press that the Secretariat's Office of Legal Affairs had provided Ban with a memo that last December's meeting on the decriminalization of homosexuality, sponsored in the first instance by France and the Netherlands but supported by Argentina and others, is just "a declaration by a member state in a formal meeting" and does not have the legal status of a resolution of the General Assembly.

Even if one accepts this legal(istic) argument, nothing precluded or precludes the UN Secretariat from taking a position of principle. Nothing has been said for two weeks. And now?

To some, the UN Secretariat's dodging of the issue is reminiscent of Ban Ki-moon's first day as Secretary General, when in response to a question about the execution of Saddam Hussein, Ban said that the UN has no position on the death penalty. He later amended that answer. It is noted that Ban travels the globe, city after city, including those with significant gay populations.

Others wonder why, for example, not only the French but also U.S. Missions to the UN have had no response to Treki's public comments two weeks ago. One wonders if, from the left and right, Frank and Ros-Lehtinen are asking the U.S. Mission to the UN to say or do anything. Watch this site:

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