UN council condemns Orlando attacks after some haggling over reference to sexual orientation

Mourners gathering on June 13 at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando.
Mourners gathering on June 13 at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United Nations Security Council on Monday (June 13) strongly condemned the Orlando attacks in a unanimous statement after some haggling with Russia and Egypt over a reference to the targeting of gay people.

The 15-member council said the "terrorist attack" on a gay nightclub in the early hours on Sunday targeted "persons as a result of their sexual orientation". Council members expressed condolences to the families of the 49 victims of the attack and reaffirmed that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to peace and security.

The US-drafted text was circulated to council members on Sunday, but Russia and Egypt raised objections over the reference to "sexual orientation", diplomats said.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre described the statement that was finally adopted late afternoon on Monday as "very important", and acknowledged that "there were some consultations to achieve unanimity on this text".

US Deputy Ambassador David Pressman separately took a swipe at the United Nations for failing to do enough to uphold the rights of sexual minorities.

Mr Pressman said the world body must do more than contribute condolences and condemnation when gays and lesbians are targeted in attacks.

 

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"Let us be equally united around the basic premise of upholding the universal dignity of all persons regardless of who they love, not just around condemning the terrorists who kill them," Mr Pressman told the General Assembly.

The diplomat deplored that the annual renewal of a resolution on protecting the right to life leads to a "pitched fight over whether it is appropriate to include sexual orientation in that protection".

"Dignity should not be so hard to protect. Here, it too often is," said Mr Pressman.

The General Assembly last month denied accreditation to 22 groups, mostly gay rights activists, to take part in a conference on ending the Aids pandemic after Russia, Muslim countries, Cameroon and Tanzania blocked it.

Homosexuality is illegal in some 77 countries worldwide. In five countries, it is punishable by the death penalty.