Advocacy statements

UPR statement on Denmark

  • Date / 2016
  • Location / Denmark
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 6: Universal Periodic Review


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 32nd Session (13th June – 1st July 2016)

UPR: Denmark

We share the concern of a number of states in the report presented today concerning the increase in discrimination of minorities.

We would like to emphasize the interpretation of freedom of religion and belief. During a recent visit the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Professor Heiner Bielefeldt, emphasized the need for broadening the understanding of the term ’belief’ in both Danish society and legislation, so as to align it with international human rights law.

Firstly, the term ‘belief’ needs to in incorporate identity-shaping convictions beyond traditional forms of monotheistic faith and worship. As stated by Professor Bielefeldt the existing system is obviously non-egalitarian. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee have developed a jurisdiction that understands freedom of religion or belief more broadly[1].

Secondly the state-church institution is fundamentally unfair and privileges one belief group over others.

We call on the Danish government to ensure equal rights for all life stance organisations – religious and non-religious. In an increasingly diverse country, amongst other things due to the relatively large number of refugees as mentioned in the review, there is a need to broaden the concept of ‘danishness’ so as to include all citizens of all religions and beliefs.

Finally, and crucially, on behalf of the international humanist community, we call for the abolishment of the Danish Blasphemy-law[2] . Denmark has an international responsibility to be at the forefront in promoting and protecting the right to freedom of expression, especially concerning the freedom of religion and belief since the law, among other things, legitimizes persecution of minorities. Other articles in the penal code[3] clearly prevents hate-speech.


[1] E.g. See General Comment 22 from UN Human Rights Committee

[2] article 140 in the Penal Code

[3] i.e. article 266b of the Penal Code concerning Hate Speech

Suggested academic reference

'UPR statement on Denmark', Humanists International

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