GENEVA Our European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) delivered an oral statement before the Human Right Council of the United Nations (U.N.) on September 23, 2008 on the issues of Defamation of Religions and Islamophobia. The Human Right Council of the U.N. has been the setting for a growing debate between pro-democratic and Islamic countries regarding the freedom of religion and expression. At issue is a disturbing new report entitled Combating Defamation of Religions - a concept being advocated by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) - a number of countries led by Pakistan, Algeria, and Egypt. The concepts of defamation of religion and Islamophobia, designed to legally forbid any criticism of Islam, have been promoted since September 2001 in the framework of the U.N. Durban Declaration and Action Programme on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
The Islamic countries argue that, since the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, there has been a serious upsurge in discrimination and violence against Muslims and Arab peoples in most areas of the world because Islam is identified with terrorism. According to the Islamic countries, and based on the report submitted by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Muslims face much more discrimination and violence than any other religious group. The U.N. report glaringly omitted any reference to the growing persecution of Christians worldwide and the massive Christian exodus from Middle Eastern countries.
In his oral statement, our ECLJ representative, Grgor Puppinck, explained why the OIC concept of Defamation of Religions is in a frontal conflict with the international conventions on human rights. In fact, an international recognition of the concept of defamation of religions would straighten the arsenal of repressive laws directed against of the religious minorities, mostly Christians in Islamic countries. Specifically, the implementation of domestic laws to combat defamation of religion in many OIC countries reveals a selective and arbitrary enforcement toward religious minorities, who are often Christians. Those violations are frequently punishable by the death penalty.
We contend the OIC-backed report on defamation of religions raises additional concerns because its primary focus and concern involves the protection of ideas and religions generally, rather than protecting the rights of individuals to practice their religion, which is the chief purpose of international religious freedom law. Our oral statement was presented in French, but you can read an English translation of the remarks here.
You can also watch the oral presentation here (scroll down to European Centre for Law and Justice and click on English). In June, the ECLJ submitted a detailed legal analysis on this issue to the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights. You can read the analysis here.
The European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) is an international law firm focusing on the protection of human rights and religious freedom in Europe and worldwide. The ECLJ is affiliated with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) which focuses on protecting religious freedom in the United States. Attorneys for the ECLJ have served as counsel in numerous cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Additionally, the ECLJ has special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the United Nations, and is accredited to the European Parliament.