For Immediate Release: July 15, 2011
Washington, DC—Today in Istanbul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a meeting with the head of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) representing 57 governments. Among other subjects, they will discuss how to implement an unprecedented consensus resolution on combating religious intolerance adopted at the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2011[i]. Human Rights First welcomed that adoption of the resolution as an important shift away from efforts at the U.N. to prohibit “defamation of religions” – in essence an international blasphemy code. The OIC had for the past decade supported such efforts, which have had serious consequences for fundamental rights to freedom of expression and belief.
“We welcome this initiative of Secretary Clinton and top officials from OIC States to build upon the human rights-based approach agreed to in March to fight the rise of religious intolerance in the world. We expect that the OIC and the U.S. will reiterate their political commitment to this resolution at the highest level in order to advance positive action on these issues at the U.N.’s General Assembly in the fall,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.
The consensus text agreed by the U.N. Human Rights Council was an important achievement. For the first time in many years, OIC governments agreed to focus on the protection of individuals rather than religions.
“Much needs to be done at the national level in U.N. member states to combat violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. In particular, Human Rights First calls on all States to move toward implementing policies to combat hatred without restricting speech,” concluded Stahnke.
Human Rights First has identified scores of cases that provide ample warning of the misuse of blasphemy laws at the national level. The organization’s study, Blasphemy Laws Exposed, documents over 70 such cases in 15 countries where the enforcement of blasphemy laws have resulted in death sentences and long prison terms as well as arbitrary detentions, and have sparked assaults, murders and mob attacks.
Human Rights First has long pressed states to oppose the defamation of religions concept in favor of an approach to combating intolerance that is in line with international human rights norms. Many elements of Human Rights First’s policy paper Confronting Hatred While Respecting Freedom of Expression were included in the March consensus resolution.
The complete paper can be found here.
[i] HRC resolution 16/18 (Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief).