Posts Tagged ‘freedom of religion’

22 August: the day to remember victims of religion-based violence

August 23, 2019

On the occasion of first International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief – 22 August – a large group of UN independent experts (see names below) issued a statement saying that States have an important role to play in promoting religious tolerance and cultural diversity by promoting and protecting human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. The experts urged States to step up their efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and violence against people based on religion or belief, including against members of religious minorities and people who are not religious.

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief which has the effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis would amount to religious intolerance and discrimination. This was made clear in the 1981 General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

We have observed violence in the name of religion around the world perpetrated by States and non-state groups leading to discrimination, persecution, arbitrary arrests or detention, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and killings of many people based on their religion or belief. Victims have included religious minorities, individuals who are not religious, LGBTI persons, children and women who face many forms of discrimination and gender-based violence. Such violence threatens the hard-fought progress in securing women’s equality and the rights of LGBTI persons.

“We stress that religion or belief should never be used to justify discrimination. When faced with religious persecution or discrimination, victims are often also deprived of their right to participate fully in political, economic and cultural life, as well as their rights to education and to health. This can include the desecration and destruction of numerous cultural heritage sites of rich historic and religious value, such as places of worship and cemeteries.

As populism has become a trend in the political and social arena, it has fostered many forms of hatred against those who are viewed as foreign or simply different. Often, States and religious institutions resort to the instrumentalisation of religions or beliefs in order to retain their influence or control and achieve other political agendas. Fundamentalism is on the rise across the world’s major religious traditions, posing a threat to many human rights. Moreover, critical views of religions or beliefs are sometimes mischaracterised as ‘hate speech’ or labelled an offence to the religious feelings of others both by governments and non-state groups. Too often this is used as a pretext to silence those with critical voices and punish others for not believing.

The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief is misunderstood as protecting religions and beliefs instead of the people with the beliefs and those without. It is incumbent on States to ensure that religions or beliefs are not used to violate human rights, and to combat religious extremism – which are a threat to many human rights, while adhering to international norms.

States have resorted to the securitisation of religion or belief, or viewing them through a lens of national security, in their fight against violent extremism. But an overly securitised approach has proven to be counterproductive and has led to xenophobia, increasing ‘religious profiling’ and discrimination, particularly towards religious minorities….

We urge States and all individuals and groups to work together to enhance the implementation of international human rights standards that protect individuals against discrimination and hate crimes, and to increase interreligious, interfaith and intercultural initiatives, and expand human rights education in an inclusive manner as a key catalyst for change.”

The experts are: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (The Maldives), Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms Karima Bennoune (Algeria/USA), Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Fernand de Varennes (Canada), Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Ms Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Ms Meskerem Geset Techane, (Ethiopia) , Chair of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico), Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Ms Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (The Netherlands), Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material; Ms Koumbou Boly Barry (Burkina Faso), Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Dainius Pῡras (Lithuania), Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Ms Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (Ireland), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica), Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada),  Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances

NGOs demand the release of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir in Mauretania

June 24, 2019

UK issues call for applications for funding human rights defenders work

May 14, 2019

On 13 May 2019 the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York issued a call for Programme Fund bids for the fiscal year 2019-2020.

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The UK Mission to the United Nations in New York is running an open call for project bids for funding under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s International Programme in support of the UK Government’s objectives at the UN in New York on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Human Rights Defenders. Funding will be available for ODA-eligible projects running between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020. Bids will be accepted from civil society, including NGOs and think tanks, as well as international organisations, including UN offices, agencies, funds and programmes. As a first step, interested parties must submit a written expression of interest to uk@un.intby Tuesday 21 May.

For more information on the programme, guidance for bidding, and additional deadlines, see the Programme Fund form below.

Murder of human rights defender Ko Ni in Myanmar

February 1, 2017

On 30 January 2017 the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, joined her voice to the many that have strongly condemned the brutal murder of Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim lawyer and constitutional law expert, who was also the legal adviser to the National League for Democracy (NLD). Mr. Ko Ni was shot and killed outside Yangon Airport on Sunday 29 January after returning from Indonesia where he had been part of a Government-led delegation attending an interfaith study tour. A suspect has been arrested.

“This appears to be another shocking example of a reprisal against those speaking out on behalf of the rights of others,” the expert said, recalling her recent end of visit statement, where she highlighted her concern at the increasing risks faced by human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and others working on sensitive issues. [see below“I am shocked to the core by the senseless killing of a highly respected and knowledgeable individual, whom I have met during all of my visits to the country, including most recently just over a week ago,” Ms. Lee said. She expressed her sincerest condolences to his family, and the family of taxi driver Nay Win killed in the same incident after he bravely attempted to apprehend the gunman. The Special Rapporteur underlined that, “U Ko Ni’s passing is a tremendous loss to human rights defenders and for Myanmar.”

Also Front Line Defenders deplores in strong term the killing of human rights defender U Ko Ni. His profile [https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/u-ko-ni] describes him as human rights defender and human rights lawyer. He was the legal advisor for the National League for Democracy. He participated in the pro-democracy protests known as the 88 Uprising and was a former political prisoner. Upon release, he became actively involved in the interfaith peace movement and advocated for the rights of Muslim citizens in Myanmar. He strongly opposed the country’s race and religion protection bill which was introduced in August 2015 and which restricted interfaith marriage and caused a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2016, he helped found the Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association. He also wrote six books on good governance and various human rights issues. U Ko Ni’s daughter reported that the human rights defender often received threats for speaking out against the continuing influence of the military on politics.

As recently as 25 January 2017 the Special Rapporteur had expressed her fears of government retaliation following her visit to Myanmar. She expressed concern that people may face reprisals for meeting with her. Lee recently concluded an official visit in the area during which individuals shared accounts of human rights abuses by the government. Some of the statements came from those in a hard labor camp as well as survivors of a village burning. Lee fears these individuals who met with her will face reprisals from those who believe the accounts given are contrary to the government. “I am deeply concerned about those with whom I met and spoke, those critical of the Government, those defending and advocating for the rights of others, and those who expressed their thoughts and opinions which did not conform to the narrative of those in the position of power.” (Lee will submit her report on Myanmar in March to the UN Human Rights Council).

(Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar.) See also:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/03/19/myanmar-backsliding-by-prosecuting-human-rights-defenders-instead-of-perpetrators/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/21/u-n-rapporteur-on-myanmar-called-whore-by-radical-buddhist-monk/

Sources:

JURIST – UN rights expert fears government retaliation following visit to Myanmar

http://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-un-rights-expert-condemns-senseless-killing-respected-muslim-lawyer-ko-ni

European Parliament zooms in on human rights defenders in Cambodia, Tajikistan and Vietnam

June 9, 2016

A press release of 9 June 2016 reports that the European Parliament – in three resolutions voted on Thursday – focused on:

Opposition in Cambodia

MEPs deplore the worsening climate for opposition politicians and human rights activists in Cambodia and condemn all acts of violence, politically-motivated charges, arbitrary detention, questioning, sentences and convictions imposed on them. The Cambodian authorities should revoke the arrest warrant for, and drop all charges against, Sam Rainsy, President of the leading opposition party, the CNRP, and also immediately release the five human rights defenders still in preventive custody, namely Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Mony and Ny Chakra. All politicians, activists and human rights defenders should “be allowed to work freely without fear of arrest or persecution”.

Given that the EU is Cambodia’s largest development assistance partner, with a new allocation of €410 million for 2014-2020, Parliament calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to make the “amount of EU financial assistance dependent on improvements in the human rights situation in the country”. EU member states, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the EEAS and the EU Commission should also set out clear benchmarks for the forthcoming elections in Cambodia, consistent with international law on freedom of expression, association and assembly, it adds.

Prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan

Parliament is deeply concerned about increases in the detention and arrest of human rights lawyers, political opposition members and their relatives in Tajikistan. Restrictions on media freedom and internet and mobile communications, and restrictions on religious expression are also worrying in this country, it adds. MEPs call for the release of all those imprisoned on politically-motived charges, including, well-known businessman and government critic Abubakr Azizkhodzhaev, opposition figure Zaid Saidov, activist Maksud Ibragimov, opposition deputy leaders Mahmadali Hayit and Saidumar Hussaini, and 11 other members of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The EU has a “vital interest in stepping up political, economic and security cooperation with the Central Asian region via a strong and open EU-Tajikistan relationship”, says the resolution. But “political and economic relations with the EU are deeply linked to the sharing of values relating to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, adds the text.

Protesters in Vietnam

MEPs deplore continuing human rights violations in Vietnam, including “political intimidation, harassment, assaults, arbitrary arrests, heavy prison sentences and unfair trials, perpetrated against political activists, journalists, bloggers, dissidents and human rights defenders”, and call on the government of Vietnam to put an “immediate stop to all harassment, intimidation, and persecution” of these individuals. “The increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters” demonstrating throughout the country in May 2016 to express their anger over “an ecological catastrophe that decimated the nation’s fish stocks” are worrying, note MEPs. The Vietnam government should respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations, the findings of the investigations into the environmental disaster should be published and those responsible should be held accountable, they add.

The resolution also calls on the Vietnam government to put an end to religious persecution in the country, to amend legislation on the status of religious minorities and to withdraw the fifth draft of the law on belief and religion, currently being debated in the National Assembly, as it is “incompatible with international norms of freedom religion or belief”.

Source: Human rights: opposition in Cambodia, prisoners of conscience in Tajikistan, continuing violations of human rights in Vietnam

Side event on religion and gender: 18 June 2015

June 17, 2015

A side event on organized by Geneva for Human Rights (GHR) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands:

– Dialogue on “synergies and conflicts between freedom of religion or belief and gender related rights”

– Dialogue on “overcoming religious and gender stereotypes”

18 June 15h30 – 18h30, room XXVII, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

for more info: info@gdh-ghr.org

Campaign to abolish blasphemy laws publishes interactive map

June 6, 2015

The International Humanistic and Ethical Union and the European Humanist Federation published this interactive map.

Go to the website below where you can then click a country to see a summary and then click “Read more” to see detailed information on that country’s “blasphemy” laws and accusations, and similar restrictions on free expression.

End Blasphemy Laws | The campaign to abolish all blasphemy laws, worldwide.

Bahrain Chamber of Commerce assesses press freedom….

May 4, 2015

The 2015 Press Kowtow award should probably go to the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) which – as reported by the equally sharp Bahrain News Agency (BNA) on 3 May 2015 – saluted the national press strides over the past years“. It issued this statement as Bahrain joined other nations in marking the World Press Freedom Day, being held this year under the theme “Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality, and Media Safety in the Digital Age”. It lauded His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier for their support…..

As Brian Dooley of Human Rights First rightly points out today on Twitter (https://twitter.com/dooley_dooley): Bahrain scored 163rd [!!] place in the Index on Censorship survey, Read the rest of this entry »

Another memorable speech by the High Commissioner for Human Rights

March 5, 2015

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

On 5 March 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Member States to uphold the human rights principles underlying their communities in their fight against radicalism.

Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council earlier he warned of the “real danger” that opinion-leaders and decision-makers would “lose their grasp” of the values that States built 70 years ago “to ward off the horror of war.”

The fight against terror is a struggle to uphold the values of democracy and human rights – not undermine them,” Mr. Zeid declared. “Counter-terrorist operations that are non-specific, disproportionate, brutal and inadequately supervised violate the very norms that we seek to defend. They also risk handing the terrorists a propaganda tool – thus making our societies neither free nor safe.”

At the same time, the UN human rights chief said he was “appalled” by the “rising tide of attacks” around the world targeting people on account of their beliefs. Such “horrific acts of racial and religious hatred,” he said, spanned countries in Western Europe and North America, where “unfair policing, daily insults, and exclusion” affected large swathes of the population. Meanwhile, he added, “the tentacles of the extremist takfiri movement” – an ideology where one believer apostasies another and then condemns them as impure – had reached into a wide range of countries, from Iraq and Syria to Nigeria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Zeid voiced deep concern at the tendency of States to clamp down on the most basic of human rights, including the adoption of measures that restrict freedom of expression and democratic space.

When powerful leaders feel threatened by a tweet, a blog, or a high-school student’s speech, this speaks of profound underlying weakness,” he continued. “And when writers are abducted, jailed, whipped, or put to death; when journalists are assaulted, subjected to sexual violence, tortured and killed; when peaceful protestors are gunned down by thugs; when human rights lawyers, human rights defenders and land activists are arrested and jailed on spurious charges of sedition; when newspapers are attacked or shut down – such cases attack and undermine the foundations of stable governance.”

It is the people who sustain government, create prosperity, heal and educate others and pay for governmental and other services with their labour,” Mr. Zeid concluded. “It is their struggles that have created and sustain States. Governments exist to serve the people – not the other way round.

United Nations News Centre – Member States must enforce human rights amid rising tide of extremism – UN rights chief.

Interview with Karim Lahidji on the 36th anniversary of the Islamic regime in Iran

February 18, 2015

11 February 2015 marks the 36th anniversary of the Islamic regime in Iran. Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), answers questions about freedoms and liberties in Iran today. The very experienced and well-respected Iranian exile recalls briefly the historical background and states the record on freedom of religion in Iran: Read the rest of this entry »