Archive for the 'Freedom of Religion' Category

Islamic States Pledge Tolerance as Report Says They Practice Persecution

Concerns about an Islamic-sponsored “combating intolerance” initiative at the United Nations are brought into sharp relief by results of a new world survey on religious persecution.

Muslim nations make up nine out of the top ten countries where Christians face the “most severe” persecution, and 38 of the top 50, reports U.S.-based Open Doors in its 2012 World Watch List.

Topping the list is North Korea, where the Stalinist regime enforces cult worship of its leaders.

The results lay bare the sheer incongruity of the idea that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), whose 56 member states control more than a quarter of the votes in the UN General Assembly, can be serious about promoting religious tolerance.

Yet that is what it claimed by successfully pushing for an assembly resolution titled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief.” The measure, which passed last month, mirrored an almost identical resolution in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva last March. Continue reading ‘Islamic States Pledge Tolerance as Report Says They Practice Persecution’

GA approves resolution aimed at combating ‘defamation of religions’

On November 12, the representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Belarus, and Venezeula, introduced in the General Assembly’s Third Committee a resolution on combating the “defamation of religions.”  The text was approved by a vote of 81 in favor to 55 against, with 43 abstentions.

The draft introduced by the OIC noted with deep concern “the serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, acts of violence based on religion or belief… particularly [against] Muslim minorities… that threaten to impede their full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  In that respect, it expressed concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations.

Among the 55 countries voting against the resolution were the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, all the EU states, and other democracies.  Sweden, on behalf of the EU, said they shared the OIC’s concern that people were “routinely victimized on the grounds of religion or belief,” but they could not agree with the concept of “defamation of religion” as a response to such discrimination, because it would “limit freedom of expression and might endanger the atmosphere of tolerance that would enable people of different religions or beliefs to coexist without fear.” 

The United States representative lamented that the “increasingly splintered view on this text” did not adequately reflect the views of every state.  He went on to say that “freedom of religion was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights… [F]reedom could not be universally achieved by imposing governmental laws regarding who could say what, when.  The United Nations must remain faithful to the central tenet of human rights law, which said that human rights were held by individuals not nations or religions.”  The representative finished his statement saying that the U.S. opposed the resolution because it would not agree that prohibiting speech was the way to promote tolerance.

Amongst the 43 countries who abstained, the representatives of Brazil and Jamaica spoke in explanation of their votes.  The representative of Brazil stated that his delegation could not support the text as tabled because it believed the concept of the “defamation of religion” needed to be addressed in such a way that was “not detrimental to other rights.”  Jamaica’s representative said the draft “should have been more balanced and not confined itself to the concerns of one religion.  It had failed to account for the violations of rights of persons of other faiths or religions.”

A coaltion of 100 human rights groups from 20 countries warned that the move would “punish the peaceful expression of disfavored political or religious beliefs and ideas.”

U.N. Denies Status to Christian Charity After China Objects

GENEVA, July 27, 2009 - UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights monitoring group, condemned the U.N.’s decision today to reject an international Christian charity as a non-governmental organization (NGO), a form of observer status, after it refused Beijing demands to disclose the addresses of its Chinese members, and “concerns” by Russia, Egypt, Cuba, Pakistan, and Sudan about its “ability to contribute” to the world body. Continue reading ‘U.N. Denies Status to Christian Charity After China Objects’

U.N. Human Rights Council concludes main annual session; Summary of key resolutions

The U.N. Human Rights Council concluded its main annual session on Friday, March 28. Before the start of the session, Freedom House published an updated report on Freedom in the World, which listed eight countries and two territories that suffer from the “worst of the worst” human rights violations: North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Sudan, Burma (Myanmar), Equatorial Guinea, Somalia, Tibet, and Chechnya. The human rights records of another eleven countries and territories ranked just slightly above. Amongst the more than two dozen resolutions adopted by the council this session, only those on Myanmar and North Korea condemned “worst of the worst” violators. The situation in Somalia was addressed, but in a weak manner with government actions enjoying more praise than criticism. There was also a weak resolution on the Congo, a country in the midst of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. By contrast, Israel —ranked as “free”— was strongly condemned in five one-sided resolutions.

Continue reading ‘U.N. Human Rights Council concludes main annual session; Summary of key resolutions’

UN Watch Director Heads Expert Panel at Paris Conference Marking 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Paris, Oct. 2, 2008 — As vice-president of the Geneva NGO Special Committee on Human Rights, UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer headed an expert panel at the UN’s annual conference of non-governmental organizations, which convened in Paris to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing there of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The conference gathered 1,700 NGOs associated with the United Nations for three days of debate.

Neuer chaired the panel discussion on the UN Human Rights Council, cosponsored by the Conference of NGOs (CONGO) and Pax Romana, featuring Willy Fautre of Human Rights Frontiers International, Peter Prove of the Lutheran World Federation, Paula Schriefer of Freedom House, and Lukas Machon of the International Commission of Jurists.

The presenters debated issues concerning the new Universal Periodic Review procedure; the interaction of the 47-nation council with other UN human rights bodies; the council’s composition and voting record; and the vital role of independent experts and NGOs.

In response to a question posed by Neuer, the panel also addressed the council’s censorship of NGO speeches—an issue raised by French human rights minister Rama Yade at the conference opening—and the council’s newly installed  regime to police “abuses” of free speech around the world.

Algerian Ambassador: Islamophobia is like Nazism

The Ad Hoc Committee of the UN Human Rights Council on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards — a follow-up group to the 2001 Durban conference against racism — continued its work Wednesday and considered recommendations by a group of five human rights experts. (To read about previous Ad Hoc Committee meetings, click here). The report by the group of experts included recommendations regarding additional conventions, optional protocols and other mechanisms to combat racism.

Egypt found the report “unacceptable,” particularly a section on recommendations to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to combat the nexus of racism and religion, since such recommendations omitted “issues related to defamation of religion.”

Supporting Egypt, committee chair Idriss Jazairy of Algeria likened 20th century Nazism and anti-Semitism to the current wave of Islamophobia. “When I was a young boy in France during World War II,” said Ambassador Jazairy, “I could see the ways Jews were mistreated. [This mistreatment was] not because of the articles of their faith, but because of what they (Jews) were. Muslims are facing acute challenges in this century, like the Jews were exposed to difficult challenges in the last century…We should keep in mind the experience of the 20th century as we try to address the challenges of the 21st century.”

The committee also considered the issue of complementary standards related to racism faced by people “under foreign occupation.” While the report by the group experts concluded that no new mechanisms are necessary, Syria, Pakistan, and Egypt made lengthy interventions on the evils of occupation and the need for a new convention or optional protocol on the matter. Syria argued that such standards are needed as “certain countries force women to give birth at checkpoints” and “raze kindergartens,” while Pakistan and Egypt stated that “foreign occupation is the worst form of human rights abuse.”

Chairman Jazairy said that “if discrimination against some Semites is racism, then such discrimination against a larger group of Semites should also be discrimination.”

Islamic bid to amend UN religious intolerance resolution

Islamic states are challenging the draft text of the annual UN resolution on religious intolerance, demanding that deference to religion be allowed to trump freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

During consultations organized last week by the European Union, which will be presenting its draft at the Human Rights Council session that opens on Monday, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) demanded that the resolution:

1) Express alarm at the increased negative projection of religions in the media;
2) Link freedom of expression and freedom of religion;
3) Reject the equation of religions with terrorism (the EU accepted this, but there are still discussions on the exact wording);
4) Protect religions from defamation, attack, or contempt.
5) “Welcome” the “work” of the Special Rapporteur — but not “recognize” it, as is customary.

Specifically, the OIC wants to include a new paragraph:

 alarmed at increasing instances of deliberate and systematic negative projection of religions, their adherents and prophets in media and by influential political parties and groups.

The EU opposes this phrase.

A related disagreement is over whether religions or individuals are the bearers of rights. The EU co-sponsors claim that the OIC language is inconsistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which limits freedom of expression only in very limited cases. The OIC text would create new restrictions for people who show “contempt” for a religion, which is hard to define, and a dangerous precedent. Canada pointed out that the best way to protect religions is by respecting the individual freedom of religion.

Egypt’s new language:

Emphasizes that respect for and protection of all religions and beliefs, consistent with international human rights law and relevant national legislation is a substantial element conducive for the exercise of the individual right to freedom of thought, conscience or religion and the protection thereof.

The OIC seems determined to replace the current UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion, Asma Jahangir. A Pakistani human rights activist, Ms. Jahangir was among those detained by the Musharraf government crackdown.

South Africa told fellow diplomats in Geneva that Christianophobia, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism do not exist in its country. They want this “fact” to be reflected in the resolution.

The resolution is expected to come to a vote on Friday. There is still no consensus. The OIC continues to have reservations and South Africa has indicated that they will table formal amendments.

Complete Documentation:
Original Resolution, Sept. 24
OIC Amendments
Revised Resolution, Dec. 1
Revised Resolution, Dec. 6