Saturday, April 23, 2005

UN Human Rights Commission passes pro-Islamist resolution

STAFF REPORT

Humanist Network News
April 13, 2005

On April 12, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution at its meeting in Geneva that condemns the defamation of religion.

The resolution, titled "Combating Defamation of Religions," expresses "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."

Humanist organizations are protesting the resolution for failing to mention or condemn those who defame a religion by carrying out acts of violence in its name.

Five days before the vote, the International Humanist and Ethical Union -- the worldwide federation of humanist, freethought and ethical culture groups -- sent an appeal to delegations of the 53 member states. The IHEU asked the delegates not to accept the draft resolution without inserting a paragraph calling upon the international community "to condemn all who defame religion by claiming to kill in the name of their religion or God."

That appeal went unheeded.

The commission passed the resolution by 31 votes to 16, with 5 member states abstaining. (See PDF of record of votes.) The resolution was sponsored by Pakistan on behalf of the 57 states belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Last week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan criticized the political use of the Human Rights Commission by states with bad human rights records, saying that the "Commission's declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole."

"Just days after Annan's remarks we see the countries with the worst human rights records lining up to denounce attacks on Islam 'especially in human rights forums.' These countries should stop trying to silence human rights advocates and start living up to their human rights obligations," said Matt Cherry, executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies and president of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the UN in New York City.

"The irony of the OIC calling for tolerance and respect for all religions and their value systems appears to have escaped most of the states voting for this resolution," said Roy Brown, president of the IHEU. "The Islamic states would do well to practice tolerance and respect for diversity at home before preaching about it at the UN."

Brown said that "attempting to silence criticism of Islamic abuse of human rights while failing to condemn those who kill in the name of Islam speaks volumes for what this issue is really about."

A similar resolution was passed by the Commission in 2004, but by a smaller margin.

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