Sign up for weekly updates

UN resolution on religious tolerance and freedom of expression welcomed

ARTICLE 19 and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) welcome the new resolution on combating religious intolerance, which was adopted by consensus on 22 March 2013 at the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

We call on all States to continue to engage in dialogue in good faith to protect the mutually reinforcing rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief and non-discrimination, including by redoubling efforts to implement the Action Plan reiterated in the new resolution at the domestic level without delay.

The resolution (A/HRC/22/L.40), tabled by Bahrain on behalf of the Group of Arab States, and co-sponsored by Cuba, Thailand and Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), was adopted by consensus.

ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS welcome that the new resolution remains focused on the importance of the related rights of individuals to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief and non-discrimination, and States' obligations to protect and promote them.

Earlier this week ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS expressed concern that the draft resolution tabled by OIC introduced new language that threatened the consensus achieved by HRC resolution 16/18. The landmark 2011 resolution replaced calls to combat the deeply problematic concept of "defamation of religions" with commitments to address religious intolerance through promoting the related rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination.

The new resolution now calls upon the High Commissioner to submit to the HRC 25th Session (March 2014) a report on the efforts and measures taken by States to implement the Action Plan originally outlined in HRC resolution 16/18, and their view on potential follow up measures to improve implementation of that plan.

In particular, ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS appreciate that the resolution reaffirms the positive role of the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can play in strengthening democracy and combating religious intolerance.

The Action Plan requires States to foster a domestic environment of religious tolerance, peace and respect, by:
* Encouraging the creation of collaborative networks to build mutual understanding, promoting dialogue and inspiring constructive action;

* Creating an appropriate mechanism within Governments to, inter alia, identify and address potential areas of tension between members of different religious communities, and assisting with conflict prevention and mediation;

* Encouraging training of Government officials in effective outreach strategies;

* Encouraging the efforts of leaders to discuss within their communities the causes of discrimination, and evolving strategies to counter these causes;

* Speaking out against intolerance, including advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence;

* Adopting measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief;

* Understanding the need to combat denigration and negative religious stereotyping of persons, as well as incitement to religious hatred, through, inter alia, education and awareness-building;

* Recognizing that the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue can play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence;

The resolution further calls upon States to:
* To take effective measures to ensure that public functionaries in the conduct of their public duties do not discriminate on the basis of religion or belief;

* To foster religious freedom and pluralism by promoting the ability of members of all religious communities to manifest their religion, and to contribute openly and on an equal footing to society;

* To encourage the representation and meaningful participation of individuals, irrespective of their religion in all sectors of society;

* To make a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures;

ARTICLE 19 and CIHRS reiterate its call upon States to continue their active engagement in good faith dialogue to ensure the protection of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of religion or belief, and non-discrimination for all individuals. We urge States to renew their commitment to the action plan set out in HRC Resolution 22/40, and redouble efforts to implement that plan at the domestic level.

What other IFEX members are saying

Latest Tweet:

"The ruling shows that independent journalism is now effectively a crime in (Burma)."…

Get more stories like this

Sign up for our newsletters and get the most important free expression news delivered to your inbox.