Item 9 General Debate
27 September 2016
Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19
In June, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned this Council that “hate is being mainstreamed” in all parts of the world. He has reiterated that much more must be done to counter increasingly populist, deceitful and discriminatory political rhetoric within the European Union and the United States.
Demagogues often claim to embody the principles of free expression to spread their hatred. However, their pernicious agendas rely on denying the already-marginalized targets of their hate any opportunity to express themselves, to speak back or to be heard.
The “mainstreaming of hate” is exacerbated through the abuse of laws to suppress the legitimate expression of minority groups and individuals speaking out for inclusion and diversity. This is compounded by impunity for incitement to discriminatory violence, and impunity for acts of violence against critics and free thinkers.
This includes, among too many examples: the assassination of bloggers in Bangladesh; the dehumanization of refugees in political discourse in the USA, UK and Hungary; the policing of how Muslim women express themselves and their religion through their clothing, in France, in Saudi Arabia, and in Iran; and the prosecution for “insulting Islam” and then extrajudicial murder of writer Nahed Hatter in Jordan.
These human rights violations and abuses can only be effectively addressed if states promote and protect freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief for all.
States must implement HRC resolution 16/18 and the Rabat Plan of Action. These provide concrete legal and policy measures to create an enabling and inclusive environment for counter-speech, while building resilience to the populist hate that demagogues seek to curate and feed off.
ARTICLE 19 therefore welcomes the holding of the 6th Istanbul Process meeting in Singapore, in particular for its practical focus on exchanging policies and good practices. The progress of the 6th Istanbul Process session must be built upon to ensure it becomes a catalyst for action in implementing resolution 16/18.
Enhancing the Istanbul Process requires making it more transparent, visible, and inclusive. It must guarantee the effective participation of local and national-level practitioners, National Human Rights Institutions, and civil society, with an emphasis on diversity and representativeness. States must take an introspective and self-critical approach to sharing experiences through the Istanbul Process, with the aim to replicate good practice. Most importantly, States must show that they are leading by example to protect freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination, on the ground.