Statement

UN: States should support draft resolution against belief-based discrimination

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ARTICLE 19

15 Nov 2011

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ARTICLE 19 urges Member States of the United Nations to support in the General Assembly the upcoming United Arab Emirates’ draft resolution on combating discrimination, violence, and incitement to violence against persons based on their religion or beliefs. 

The draft follows Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 of 24 March 2011 and is titled “Resolution on combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.” It was proposed by the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference and is currently at the Third Committee stage prior to being put before the General Assembly. If adopted, it would consolidate a growing international consensus towards dealing with acts of discrimination on grounds of religion or belief in ways that are in accordance with international human rights standards.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the draft resolution’s complete omission of the ambiguous “defamation of religions” – a term incompatible with international human rights standards on the right to freedom of expression - and the focus on combating discrimination against persons. The draft is in line with General Comment No 34 of the UN Human Rights Committee of July 2011 that states that “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant”.

However, ARTICLE 19 suggests that the title and subject of the draft resolution should be shortened by omitting the vague terms of “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization”. The resolution should simply concern “combating discrimination, violence and incitement to violence against persons based on religion or belief”.  Notwithstanding this weakness, states should support the draft resolution

ARTICLE 19 also welcomes the draft’s reiteration that: “open public debate of ideas, as well as interreligious and intercultural dialogue … [are] among the best protections against religious intolerance”. It calls on states to create “collaborative networks to build mutual understanding, promoting dialogue and inspiring constructive action … such as servicing projects in the fields of education, health, conflict prevention, employment, integration and media education”. Such provisions reflect the positive approach to international human rights standards embodied in the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality.  

A number of features in the draft further develop the approach of Resolution 16/18. New paragraphs in the preamble reaffirm the: “universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated” nature of all human rights; emphasise the “importance of dialogue among and within religions and cultures”; and underline that “states, regional organisations, non-governmental organisations, religious bodies and the media have an important role to play in promoting tolerance and respect for religious and cultural diversity and … human rights”.  

The draft also requests the High Commissioner for Human Rights to include updates on states’ efforts to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, and asks the Secretary General to submit a report on steps taken by states to implement the resolution at the next session of the General Assembly.

The draft resolution does not alter states’ existing international human rights treaty obligations, including those under Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the right to freedom of expression and the prohibition of incitement.

ARTICLE 19 strongly urges Member States of the General Assembly to support the draft resolution.   

For more information:

  • For more information please contact Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, +44 20 7324 2500 sejal@article19.org
 

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