For Immediate Release: March 22, 2013
New York City – Human Rights First today welcomes a new text on combating religious intolerance that diplomats at the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted today. During this week’s negotiations, problematic new language that was considered threatened to destabilize the current international consensus on how to combat religious intolerance without restricting speech.
The new text, which has been negotiated since March 2011, marks a sharp departure from previous U.N. resolutions that provided cover for abusive national blasphemy laws. Rather than calling for further criminalization of speech, this text calls on governments to condemn hatred, foster religious freedom and pluralism and encourage open debate, human rights education, and intercultural initiatives.
“While this is a welcome development, combating religious intolerance must extend beyond discussions between diplomats held in the corridors of the United Nations,” said Human Rights First’s Joelle Fiss.
The organization notes that states must improve their technical expertise to fight intolerance and hatred based on religion or belief. Instructions should come from the highest level in capitals, to make sure that local law-enforcement officials are adequately trained to protect victims of intolerance. Senior leaders must also set the example and speak out against all forms of hatred, as well enforce all prohibitions against discrimination
“The U.N. text on religious intolerance is safe and sound, but governments have yet to prove that they are serious about implementing the recommendations so carefully negotiated,” concluded Fiss.