For Immediate Release: March 23, 2012
New York City – Human Rights First today praises member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for adopting resolution text on fighting religious intolerance text that omits reference to the controversial notion of “defamation of religions.” Last year, in a groundbreaking move by the UNHRC, similar text was adopted for the first time.
“Today the UN took another good step forward in protecting freedom of expression. Setting up a global blasphemy code at the UN was a divisive issue for many years, but the past year and today’s action confirm that those days appear to be behind us,” said Human Rights First’s Joëlle Fiss. “This is a good day for freedom of expression.”
Today’s resolution builds on achievements made in March 2011, when the resolution was first adopted. Last year’s resolution was then endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011.
Fiss notes, “Member states must do more to put the recommendations found in these resolutions into practice. Much more can be done to adopt and implement measures to combat violence and to confront hatred and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, as well as to address religious intolerance without restricting speech.”
Despite these developments at the United Nations, Human Rights First continues to have grave concerns about the violence faced by those around the globe who are accused of blasphemy. “It is concerning that the U.N.’s diplomatic success has not improved religious freedom on the ground. Accusations of blasphemy continue to lead to arbitrary arrests against religious minorities and state-sponsored violence in the name of protecting Islam,” Fiss recently stated at the Council’s discussion on this issue.
Human Rights First has identified numerous cases that illustrate the dangers of enacting a global blasphemy law. In its report “Blasphemy Laws Exposed,” over 100 such cases are reported in 18 countries where enforcement of blasphemy laws have resulted in death sentences and long prison terms as well as arbitrary detentions, assaults, murders and mob attacks.