Humanists International highlights harm of blasphemy laws in submissions to UN

  • post Type / Advocacy News
  • Date / 30 May 2024

Humanists International has highlighted the threat of anti-blasphemy laws and how they infringe on the right to freedom of religion or belief, via two written submissions to the UN.

In response to two requests from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Humanists International has made submissions highlighting the harm of blasphemy laws.

These requests came from two separate UN Resolutions, one of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and one of the General Assembly in New York.

The submissions set-out the international legal framework around blasphemy laws, drawing from the work of numerous UN Special Rapporteurs and UN instruments, such as General Comment 34 and the Rabat Plan of Action.

Humanists International also outlined the fact that blasphemy laws infringe on the right to freedom of religion or belief, not merely the right to freedom of expression, as is often claimed. For many humanists and other religious and belief minorities, merely manifesting their freedom of religion or belief can be seen to be blasphemous, and labelled as such. The submission gave numerous examples of this; both in terms of the non-religious and other religious minorities.

Drawing from the information provided by Humanists International’s member organizations, the submission outlined the practical harms of blasphemy laws. These included self-censorship, discrimination, persecution, and extrajudicial violence.

In July last year, at the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council, the Organization of Islamic States (OIC) pushed through a resolution that condemned the desecration of sacred books and threatened years of UN consensus on how to tackle religious intolerance in line with international law. Humanists International delivered a statement at the time, opposing the approach being taken by the OIC.

That Resolution called for the convening of a panel on religious hatred, at which Humanists International joined a statement calling for the reaffirmation of a commitment to a consensus-based approach to religious hatred and hate speech. The Resolution also called for a report on countering religious hatred, which is what Humanists International’s submission responded to.

The OIC also passed a resolution in December 2023 at the UN General Assembly on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief.” This Resolution also called for a report of the Secretary-General that called for inputs from civil society, which Humanists International replied to.

Featured photo by Xabi Oregi on Pexels.

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