Monday, October 5, 2009

UN Human Rights Council Passes Compromise Resolution on Freedom of Expression.

I quote the article from Religion Clause in full:

CNS News reports that on Friday the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a compromise resolution on freedom of opinion and expression that had been proposed by the United States and Egypt. (Full text of draft as of Sept. 25.) The resolution omits the controversial term "defamation of religion," which the Organization of the Islamic Conference had pushed through in resolutions adopted in previous years. (See prior posting.) Instead it included a paragraph that each side has chosen to interpret differently. In the relevant language in the resolution, the Council:

Reaffirms ... the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including ... the intrinsically linked rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion....

Also expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their international human rights obligations, to address and combat such incidents;
CNS News reports on the varying interpretations of and reactions to the compromise language:
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, French representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the language about stereotyping referred to the stereotyping of individuals, not religions, ideologies or abstract values. Human rights laws do not and should not protect belief systems, he said, stressing that the E.U. continued to reject the concept of defamation of religion.

But Pakistan’s Zamir Akram, speaking for the OIC, used the terms "negative stereotyping" and "defamation of religions" interchangeably, and said the phenomenon affected not only individuals but also religions and belief systems.

Article 19, a free speech organization, called the vote on the resolution a breakthrough, given the tensions that have marked discussions on the issue at the U.N.’s human rights bodies. Executive director Agnes Callamard noted in particular the omission of the term "defamation of religion," although she said "religious stereotyping" was a vague concept that suggested that religions and religious ideas and symbols, rather than religious adherents, may be protected by international human rights law.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a leading opponent of the religious "defamation" push, said the resolution passed Friday was a step in the right direction but still contained problematic language. "This resolution will be seen as a victory if it is the death knell for the concept of 'defamation of religions,'" said advocacy officer L. Bennett Graham. "But if it continues to provide international cover for overbroad anti-blasphemy laws around the world, it will only exacerbate the problem."
Some however had a less sanguine view of the compromise language, such as this article from The Weekly Standard, and this somewhat less strident but still negative reaction from Eugene Volokh.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home