Durban Ad Hoc Committee: Day 1

Islamic states at the UN are once again attempting to change international law by defining criticism of Islam as a form of racism. As part of a broader Islamic campaign throughout the UN, which includes an annual “Defamation of Religion” resolution that is now making its way through the GA in New York, the so-called “Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards“, part of the UN Human Rights Council’s follow-up to the 2001 Durban conference on racism, opened today in Geneva for a 2-week session. The group was created in December 2006 and held its first session last year.

The premise of the Islamic-initiated group is that international law has a gap in allowing criticism (“defamation”) of Islam, and that new “complementary standards” must be enacted, to prohibit newspaper articles, cartoons or other statements deemed offensive to Muslims. The committee today discussed the relevance of reaching consensus on the program of work.

  • Sweden for the EU argued that gaps should be determined through fact-based investigations, and any decisions should be consensual.  Though it endorsed the agenda, Sweden for the EU found the program of work problematic, arguing that “a disproportional emphasis was placed on religion.”
  • Nigeria referenced a “defamation of religion” bill being deliberated in Ireland.  Ireland called Nigeria’s remarks “a false representation,” and noted that it was a blasphemy bill in accordance with articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  • The United States added that it hopes for further discussion of implementation, though the Ad Hoc Committee was not the appropriate forum to discuss protocol. The United States also expressed its desire to conclude the meeting with consensus. However, Cuba asserted that seeking consensus was “a deliberate tactic designed to slow down the procedure.”

Reporting by Cindy Tan and Bethany Singer-Baefsky

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