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UN Human Rights Council: Universal Human Rights “Under Threat”

  • Date / 24 September 2009

Geneva, Switzerland — In four statements to the United Nations (UN), made on Sept. 22, 2009, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) raised the alarm about human rights abuses across the world and threats to the very existence of universal standards of human rights. In a statement to the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the IHEU warned about the danger of plans by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to create an Islamic system of rights that could compete with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Human Rights Council itself. IHEU called on the Council to refuse to recognize any human rights structure that did not accept existing international law. In three additional statements the IHEU condemned murderous witchcraft and witch hunts in Africa, the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse, and slavery in Mauritania and Sudan.

Roy Brown
Roy Brown

“The horrific abuses that we are reporting show the desperate need for human rights law to apply to every human being,” said Roy Brown, head of the IHEU delegation to the United Nations in Geneva. “Instead, we are seeing a fundamental challenge to the universality of human rights; a challenge that would replace standards accepted by the global community with rules drawn from one interpretation of one religion. If this assault on human rights law succeeds it will sound the death knell for the single most important principle of the United Nations: the principle that every human being is equal in dignity and rights; our rights will no longer be guaranteed but subject to the dictates of differing religious authorities.”

The full texts of all four IHEU statements are available at: www.iheu.org/UNHRC12

In warning about the threat to the universality of human rights, IHEU drew attention to the plan, confirmed by the OIC Conference of Foreign Ministers in May 2009, to create “an independent permanent body to promote human rights in the member states, in accordance with the provisions of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam.” The Cairo Declaration does not refer to any of the UN’s agreements on human rights but instead says “the Islamic Shari’ah is the only source of reference” for its interpretation.

The IHEU statement on “Witchcraft in Africa” drew attention to two related problems: the hundreds of people killed every year to provide witchdoctors with body parts for spells, and the witch hunts that attack and kill innocent people accused of sorcery. In both cases the victims are often children. In South Africa alone, an estimated 300 people a year are killed for body parts, which are considered more potent if removed while the victim is still alive.

In a statement on “Child Abuse and the Holy See”, IHEU highlighted the failure of the Catholic Church to deal appropriately with the scandal of child abuse within its own ranks and to honour its obligations under international law.

The IHEU statement on “Contemporary slavery in Sudan and Mauritania” addressed the continuing scourge of chattel slavery. In Mauritania, an estimated 600,000 people are enslaved into forced labor, while in Sudan, at least 35,000 people — and perhaps many more – are reported to be living as slaves.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union is the world union of more than 100 Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organizations from more than 40 countries. It has consultative status at the United Nations.

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The full texts of all four IHEU statements are available at: www.iheu.org/UNHRC12

For more information contact Matt Cherry at pr@iheu.org or on +1 518 632 1040.


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