When IHEU were prevented on a technicality from delivering a speech on blasphemy and violence in the name of religion at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Center for Inquiry kindly agreed to collaborate and deliver a statement jointly crafted by the two organizations. Unfortunately, Georgina Hutchinson, CFI main representative in Geneva was unable to deliver the speech when the session ended early on Friday 11 March, and the speech was actually delivered by Jack Jeffery of IHEU at 9:15 this morning. Here is the speech in full.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Monday 14 March 2011
Agenda Item 3, Promotion and Protection of all human rights
Speaker: Jack Jeffery for CFI Main Representative, Georgina Hutchinson
Blasphemy, and violence in the name of religion
We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief [A/HRC/16/53] and note that violence in the name of religion is apparently growing in many counties. For example, the recent murders in Pakistan of Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti have shocked us all.
In this context, we note the excellent statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released on 2 March1 in which she condemned the assassinations and went on to call on the Pakistan Government to declare a moratorium on the application of the blasphemy laws.
We recognise the problems faced by governments around the world, including Pakistan, in confronting extremism, but the extremists must be confronted, Mr President.
The Pakistani assassins reportedly gave their victim’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws as the reason for their murders, so it is incorrect to argue that the murders cannot be linked to the blasphemy laws – as the distinguished representative of Pakistan did here last Thursday.
For many years the OIC has argued for the criminalisation of defamation of religion, thereby providing legitimacy for their infamous blasphemy laws – infamous, because it is only in Pakistan and certain other States that blasphemy carries the death penalty.
All blasphemy laws must be reviewed, Mr President, and all States have an obligation to bring their legislation into line with international law. Religious dissidents, religious minorities and nonbelievers must not face persecution or death under blasphemy laws.
If I were a Christian and were to say “Jesus was not merely a prophet, he was divine,” why should I be subject to the death penalty anywhere?