Tide Turning on “Defamations of Religions” at the United Nations Human Rights Council

New York, March 26, 2010 Human Rights First today praised growing United Nations Human Rights Council opposition to the concept of “defamation of religions,” a trend the group notes was evident this week in Geneva. Though the Council narrowly passed a resolution on defamation of religions, a growing number of UN States voted against the measure and many nations that had previously abstained from the debate spoke out in opposition to the resolution’s passage.   “Human Rights First congratulates the UN Member States that opposed this resolution. The growing rejection of defamation should move States to implement effective tools to confront hatred and religious intolerance- ones that don’t restrict speech, as does the divisive defamation concept. Governments can and should do much more to adopt and implement policies to combat violent hate crimes, confront hate speech, tackle discrimination but without prohibiting free speech,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.   In addition to weakening UN Human Rights Council support for the defamation of religions, a second resolution was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council on the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards” that has been charged to identify new methods to combat racism. The text passed does not include any defamation of religions language. Furthermore, there is no authorization for the Ad Hoc committee to codify defamation of religions into a binding international Protocol. Human Rights First notes that the implementation of existing treaty obligations, rather than creating new ones, will be effective in combating racial and religious hatred. The organization hopes that this week’s decision on the Ad Hoc Committee will be a step in that direction.   The “defamation of religions” is a politically-driven effort that protects States and religions rather than individual human rights and freedoms.  Such national blasphemy and religious defamation laws, in many countries, are used to persecute dissenting voices and members of religious minorities. Recent votes on this issue by the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have shown a steady erosion of support for the “defamations of religions” concept.   “The effort to pass binding ‘defamation of religions’ language should be abandoned in favor of advancing effective measures to fight the rise of religious intolerance around the globe without sacrificing human rights,” Stahnke concluded.   Read Human Rights First’s Open Letter to UN Member States   Read Human Rights First’s policy paper Confronting Hate Speech While Respecting Freedom of Speech   Read Human Rights First’s fact sheet on Hate Crimes Against Muslims in 2009

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Published on March 26, 2010

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