LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday appointed its first independent investigator to help protect homosexual and transgender people worldwide from violence and discrimination.
The United Nations expert Vitit Muntarbhorn will have a three-year mandate to investigate abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
Muntarbhorn is an international law professor at the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and has served on several U.N. bodies, including inquiries on Syria and as a special rapporteur on North Korea.
The U.N. agreed on the new role in June, after the 47-member council overcame strong objections by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries to adopt a Western-backed resolution by a vote of 23 states in favour and 18 against with six abstentions.
Human Rights Watch welcomed Friday's appointment, saying the U.N. council "made history".
"This critical mandate will bring much-needed attention to human rights violations against LGBT people in all regions of the world," John Fisher, the group's director in Geneva, said in a statement.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) said the newly created role was critical to give justice to LGBTI people who have been attacked, abused or discriminated against.
"Never has there been a more urgent need to safeguard the human rights of LGBTI persons around the world," executive director of ILGA, Renato Sabbadini, said in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Hundreds of LGBTI people have been killed and thousands injured in recent years, in violence that included knife attacks, anal rape and genital mutilation, as well as stoning and dismemberment, the U.N. said in a report last year.
More than 2,000 transgender and gender diverse people were murdered in 65 countries between 2008 and 2015, according to The Trans Murder Monitoring project, which is coordinated by LGBT rights group Transgender Europe.
In 2011, the U.N. rights body declared there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation.
(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories)