UN Human Rights Council, resolution on defamation of religions : Moving away from the human rights mandate

27/03/2009
Press release

FIDH deplores the adoption yesterday by the Human rights Council of a resolution on the defamation of religions, in contrast with the recent positive trend to move away from the concept in the context of the Durban Review Conference.

As FIDH’s President, Ms Souhayr Belhassen, commented : « we regret this decision of the Council to promote a politically motivated notion, instead of fighting effectively against the incitement to religious hatred through a resolution promoting the legal obligations of the States ».

The resolution on defamation of religions has been adopted by vote 23 in favour, 11 against and 13 abstentions.
It was presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of the islamic conference. Such resolution has been presented since 1999. It recently was also presented to and adopted by the UN General Assembly.

The notion of defamation of religion has been recently clearly criticised and invalidated by UN human rights experts as contrary to international human rights and potentially dangerous to a whole set of rights, notably the freedom of expression, the rights of women, etc. FIDH has been, alongside other NGOs, actively advocating for the rejection of the notion (2).

Last week, in the context of the negotiations on the Durban Review Conference, a trend to move away from the concept had been witnessed, and the notion had disappeared from a draft outcome document which received large support (3).

In this context, FIDH regrets the fact that Bolivia and Gabon have decided to change their vote from abstention to a support for the resolution. FIDH is also worried that several countries that have a satisfactory level of freedom of expression blindly support the resolution, in contradiction with their commitments at home. Finally, FIDH believes that given the UN jurisprudence against the notion, States abstaining on such resolution are letting the Human Rights Council move away from its core objective, in contradiction with their mandate as members of this body.

FIDH calls upon all members of the UN Human Rights Council to act in conformity with Special Procedures recommendations and international human rights standards in using in all Human Rights Council’s resolutions or statements the legal notion of incitement to religious hatred instead of the notion of defamation of religion.

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