Human Rights Council Resolution “Combating Defamation of Religion”

  • post Type / Campaigns
  • Date / 26 March 2009

More than 200 civil society organizations from 46 countries [see below], including Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Secular, Humanist and Atheist groups, have endorsed a statement jointly sponsored by IHEU, UN Watch, Freedom House and the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, urging member states of the UN Human Rights Council to reject the resolution: “Combating Defamation of Religions” due to be voted on in Geneva on 26 March 2009.

Roy Brown, spokesman for IHEU in Geneva said: “This resolution is both unnecessary and dangerous. It not only fails in its stated purpose of protecting Muslims from hatred but will actually exacerbate tensions between faith communities. The unprecedented level of response we have achieved from civil society in just four days reflects the very high level of concern world-wide surrounding this issue.”

The resolution, which many States and NGOs have stressed has no validity in international law, fails to distinguish between criticism of religion and hatred of the believers, creating the false impression that the first leads inexorably to the second. By deflecting attention from discrimination against individuals and focusing on religion, the resolution is actually doing a disservice to victims of discrimination.

And by attempting to restrict criticism of religion in the guise of protecting believers, such resolutions – several of which have been adopted by UN bodies since 1999 – have had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and have helped create a climate in which any criticism of Islamic law or practices is immediately condemned as “Islamophobia”.

Said Brown, “The resolution is part of a wider campaign by the Islamic States to impose values on the rest of the international community which are largely unacceptable in liberal democracies. Freedom of Expression is protected in international law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 states that everyone has the right “to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.” Articles 19 and 20 also set out the permitted limits to freedom of expression. They do not include protection for ideas, beliefs or religion per se; it is the believer not the belief that the ICCPR seeks to protect.

“The sponsors of this resolution have failed to understand that Freedom of Religion or Belief depends on Freedom of Expression. If the beliefs of one religion are to be deemed ‘defamation’ of another, society is on a very slippery slope” said Brown.

The list of signatory organizations is available below.

Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP) [Algeria]
Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL) [Argentina]
Sociedad Humanista-etica, Deodoro Roca [Argentina]
Atheist Foundation of Australia [Australia]
Australia NZ Secular Association [Australia]
Brisbane Atheists [Australia]
Council of Australian Humanist Societies [Australia]
Humanist Society of Queensland [Australia]
Humanist Society of Victoria [Australia]
Melbourne Atheist Group [Australia]
Rationalist Association of NSW [Australia]
Rationalist Society of Australia [Australia]
Secular Party of Australia [Australia]
Skeptics Australia [Australia]
Sydney Atheists [Australia]
Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) [Azerbaijan]
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [Bahrain]
Hotline Human Rights [Bangladesh]
Media Watch [Bangladesh]
Centre d;Action Laique [Belgium]
Human Rights Without Frontiers In’tl [Belgium]
Humanistiche Vrijzinnige Vereniging [Belgium]
Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen [Belgium]
Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) [Brazil]
Fondation Genereuse Developpement [Cameroon]
Canadian Humanist Publications [Canada]
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) [Canada]
Cultural Bridges [Canada]
Humanist Association of Ottawa [Canada]
Humanist Canada [Canada]
International Committee to Protect Freethinkers [Canada]
Muslim Canadian Congress [Canada]
The DiaHumanism Institute [Canada]
Centre for Political Studies [Denmark]
Danish Atheist Society [Denmark]
The Free Press Society [Denmark]
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) [Egypt]
European Humanist Federation [European]
European Network Church on the Move [European]
European Union of Jewish Students [European]
European Union of Public Relations [European]
Finnish Humanist Union [Finland]
Union of Freethinkers [Finland]
Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (LICRA) [France]
Mouvement Pour la Paix et Contre le Terrorisme [France]
Coordination française pour le Lobby Européen des Femes (C.L.E.F.) [France]
Burgerbewegung Pax Europa [Germany]
German Forum Human Rights [Germany]
Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands [Germany]
World Citizens Foundation [Germany]
Greek Helsinki Monitor [Greece]
Minority Rights Group [Greece]
Sidmennt Ethical Humanist Association [Iceland]
Adhra Pradesh Rationalist Association [India]
Atheist Centre Andhra Pradesh [India]
Centre for Study of Society and Secularism [India]
Centre for the Study of Social Change [India]
Disha Dalit Humanist organisation [India]
Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations [India]
Gujerat Mumbai Rationalist Assoc [India]
Indian Humanist Union [India]
Indian Radical Humanist Association [India]
International Jurist Organization [India]
Jana Vignana Vedika [India]
Manava Vikasa Vedika [India]
Netradana Protsahaka Sangam [India]
Rationalist Forum of Hyderabad [India]
Satya Shodhak Sabha, Gujerat [India]
Social Development Foundation [India]
Society for Humanism and Social Change [India]
Socio-political Analysis and Research Org [India]
Spurthi Dalit Humanist organisation [India]
Viveka Vidyalayam [India]
Association for World Education [International]
Atheist Alliance International [International]
B’nai-B’rith International [International]
Center for Inquiry International [International]
Coalition for Defence of HR in Muslim World [International]
International Council of Jewish Women [International]
International Free Press Society [International]
International Humanist and Ethical Union [International]
International Press Institute (IPI) [International]
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) [International]
Open Doors International [International]
The International Association of Prosecutors [International]
The International Federation of Liberal Youth [International]
Women’s International Zionist Organization [International]
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission [International]
World Jewish Congress [International]
World Jewish Congress [International]
World Maronite Union [International]
World Union for Progressive Judaism [International]
World Union of Jewish Students [International]
World Union of Progressive Judaism [International]
Cartoonists Rights Network [International ]
Organisation against Women’s Discrimination [Iran]
Humanist Association of Ireland [Ireland]
Nonviolent Radical Party [Italy]
The Fire Rescue Development Program [Italy]
Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti [Italy]
Arab Archives Institute [Jordan]
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech [Kazakhstan]
Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya [Kenya]
Media Institute [Kenya]
Frontiers Association [Lebanon]
Maharat Foundation [Lebanon]
Middle East Christian Committee masreq [Lebanon]
Center for Media Studies and Peace Building [Liberia]
Liberté de Conscience [Luxembourg]
NGO Forum [Mauritius]
United Nations Association of Mauritius [Mauritius]
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES) [Nepal]
Center for Inquiry, Low Countries [Netherlands]
Humanistisch Verbond [Netherlands]
Humanistische Alliantie [Netherlands]
India Committee of the Netherlands [Netherlands]
Humanist Society of New Zealand [New Zealand]
NZ Assoc of Rationalists and Humanists [New Zealand]
Media Rights Agenda [Nigeria]
Nigerian Humanist Movement [Nigeria]
Human Rights Service [Norway]
Norwegian Humanist Association [Norway]
Norwegian PEN [Norway]
Doha Centre for Media Freedom [Qatar]
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) [Serbia]
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) [Somalia]
Media Institute of South Africa [South Africa]
Free Media Movement (FMM) [Sri Lanka]
South Sudan Movement in Disapora [Sudan]
Swedish Humanist Association [Sweden]
Swedish Youth Humanist Association [Sweden]
Association Suisse des Libres Penseurs [Switzerland]
CWA [Switzerland]
Darfur Peace And Development Centre [Switzerland]
International Publishers Association [Switzerland]
Intl. Foundation for Population and Development [Switzerland]
UN Watch [Switzerland]
Syria Reform Party [Syria]
Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association [Trinidad & Tobago]
International PEN Writers in Prison Committee [U.K]
Belfast Humanist Group [UK]
British Humanist Association [UK]
Consultative Board of Jewish Organisations [UK]
Council of ex-Muslims of Britain [UK]
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association [UK]
Humanist Academy of Scotland [UK]
Humanist Assoc of Northern Ireland [UK]
Index on Censorship [UK]
Jewish Human Rights Coalition [UK]
National Secular Society [UK]
North East Humanists [UK]
North London Humanist Group [UK]
One Law for All Campaign [UK]
Pink Triangle Trust [UK]
Rationalist Association [UK]
The Evangelical Alliance [UK]
The Institute For African Alternatives [UK]
Act for America [USA]
Advocates International [USA]
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community [USA]
American Atheists [USA]
American Coptic Associations [USA]
American Ethical Union [USA]
American Humanist Association [USA]
American Islamic Congress [USA]
American Islamic Forum for Democracy [USA]
American Jewish Congress [USA]
American Maronite Union [USA]
American Textbook Council [USA]
Association of World Citizens [USA]
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty [USA]
Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute [USA]
Center for Security Policy [USA]
Endeavour Forum Inc [USA]
Ethics & Religious Liberty Comm, Southern Baptists [USA]
Foundation for Democracy in Iran [USA]
Freedom House [USA]
Hudson Institute, Center for Religious Freedom [USA]
International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty [USA]
International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization [USA]
Jihad Watch [USA]
Jubilee Campaign USA [USA]
Military Assoc of Atheists and Freethinkers [USA]
Minnesota Atheists [USA]
National American Coptic Assembly [USA]
Open Doors USA [USA]
Pray in Jesus Name Project [USA]
Quadlibet Strategic Ventures NFP [USA]
Redeem the Vote [USA]
Religious Freedom Coalition [USA]
Secular Student Alliance [USA]
Simon Wiesenthal Centre [USA]
Society for Humanistic Judaism [USA]
Society of Catholic Social Scientists [USA]
Southern California Ecumenical Council [USA]
Summit Ministries [USA]
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [USA]
The International Quranic Cente [USA]
The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) [USA]
The Tandem Project [USA]
Traditional Values Coalition [USA]
United American Committee [USA]
Unity Coalition for Israel [USA]
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) [Venezuela]
Institute for African Alternatives
International Association of Prosecutors
International Quranic Center
Muslims Against Sharia

[This page was updated 2016-March-11 to incorporate the full list of signatories which was previously linked in the main text.]

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