Friday, April 27, 2007

IHEU opposes proposed ban on blasphemy in UN Human Rights Council charter

An action alert from the International Humanist and Ethical Union,

IHEU has called on its member organisations to oppose the proposed ban on blasphemy in UN Human Rights Council charter. Together with other NGOs represented at the UN, it has issued the following statement:

Last week, during the negotiations to establish a new Human Rights Council to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Organization of the Islamic Conference tabled an amendment that would extend to the global level the prohibition against blasphemy that already exists in certain countries.

The amendment calls on the new human rights body to "prevent instances of intolerance, discrimination, incitement of hatred and violence arising from any actions against religions, prophets and beliefs which threaten the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

This initiative, undertaken by the 56 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the UN, has grave consequences and should be firmly rejected by the European Union, the United States and all countries that cherish freedom of expression, liberty and democratic values. Defense of religion should not be used as a smokescreen behind which to introduce a false equation between matters of religious conviction and those of international human rights.

The amendment by the OIC should be completely rejected for the following reasons:

The mandate of the Human Rights Council, once established, will be to promote human rights, including vital ones of freedoms of expression, the press, religion and belief. By contrast, the principal effect of the OIC proposal would be an increase in censorship of those cartoons, books, articles, works of art, or other manifestations of thought that are considered offensive to any religion, and the erosion of the freedom to dissent from a religion.

One of the primary results of the OIC proposal would be to establish a justification for the violence and threats of violence that have occurred in recent days over the Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammed. In the past, artists, writers, editors and dissidents have also been threatened with death for depicting religions and religious figures in a light deemed unacceptable by certain groups. The OIC proposal seeks a UN and international imprimatur to whitewash this violence as merely acts of "excessive self-defense" against purportedly illegitimate provocations. The result of this proposal would be to increase threats and violence against all those who hold and express contrary religious views.

Next week, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Eliasson, will present a draft resolution on the establishment of the new Human Rights Council. We urge the European Union, the United States and all democratic countries strongly to oppose the inclusion of this proposal, which would taint the Council from birth. If the price to pay for the establishment of the new Human Rights Council is curtailing freedom of expression and religion, and appeasing violence and threats of violence, it is not worth paying.

Matteo Mecacci
UN Representative
Transnational Radical Party

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director
UN Watch

Jennifer Windsor
Executive Director
Freedom House

Yevgeniy Zhovitis
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Pilar Checa
Fundacion "8 de Marzo"

Gianfranco Rossi
Representative to the UN in Geneva
International Religious Liberty Association

Panayote Dimitras
Greek Helsinki Monitor

Nafsika Papanikolatos
Minority Rights Group

Roy W Brown
International Humanist and Ethical Union

Maryam Namimze posts this on the tabling of the resolution,
The Council delegate from Pakistan, who also represented the Organization of the Islamic Conference, declared: “The resolution is tabled in the expectation that it will compel the international community to acknowledge and address the disturbing phenomena of the defamation of religions, especially Islam.”

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