IHEU calls on UN to condemn religious violence

  • Date / 10 August 2005

In the wake of the ad hominem attacks on its spokesman on July 26th, IHEU has called on the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights to unequivocally condemn any call to kill, to terrorise, or to use violence in the name of God, or of any religion.

Statement by Main Representative and President of IHEU, Roy Brown
Read by Léonore Reverdin, Wednesday 10th August 2005

57th Session, UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights (25 July – 12 August 2005)
Agenda item 6(c): New priorities, in particular terrorism and counter terrorism


I am reading this statement for Roy W. Brown – President and Main Representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union – who could not be present today. We are intervening under sub-item 6 (c) with regard to terrorism, human rights, international solidarity, and the World Programme for Human Rights Education.

The Sub-Commission will be aware that the President of IHEU together with the Main Representative of the Association for World Education and the Association of World Citizens, have sent you a formal letter of complaint regarding the ad-hominem attacks on our spokesman, Mr David Littman at the afternoon session of the Sub-Commission on Tuesday 26th July, when speaking about terrorism. We are making this complaint available.

In that letter we quoted the words of the late Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Veillo de Mello in which he reminded the Commission – and his words apply equally to the Sub-Commission – that:

“Membership of the Commission on Human Rights must carry responsibilities. I therefore wonder whether the time has not come for the Commission itself to develop… a code of conduct for members while they serve on the Commission. After all, the Commission on Human Rights has a duty to humanity and the members of the Commission must themselves set the example of adherence to the international human rights norms – in practice as well as in law.” (E/CN.4/2003/14, from his introduction, point 5)

Ad-hominem attacks invariably discredit those who make them, but they can also act as a form of censorship, diverting attention from the matter in hand, in this case, our request that the Sub-Commission, either through a clear resolution by consensus, or by a Chairman’s decision, unequivocally condemn any call to kill, to terrorise, or to use violence in the name of God, or of any religion.

We make no reference to any particular religion in our request. We also recognise that not all violence in the world can be blamed on religion, nor is a single religion to blame for violence; there hardly exists a religion in the world that has not been called upon at one time or another to justify violence.

We would respectfully remind the members of the Sub-Commission that you have an awesome responsibility. The world looks to you for guidance on what is becoming a major issue of worldwide concern. We urge you to remember that you are not here to defend the interests of your respective governments – nor of your religions. You are usually referred to as “independent members” or “independent experts.” You are here to defend humanity and the human rights of ordinary people. The first human right is the right to life, and without life all other rights are meaningless.

A resolution such as we have proposed would send a clear message to the world that killing the innocent in the name of religion is totally unacceptable. On the other hand, your failure to do so will cast grave doubt on where your priorities actually lie.

The world needs to hear your message. Please do not fail us.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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