19 September 2008

Agenda Item 9: blasphemy

Today is the debate on "combating the defamation of religions." The Council welcomed Githu Muigai, the new Special Rapporteur on racism, to open Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. He summarized the current report of his predecessor, Doudou Diene's report, which, to our surprise, recommended a shift away from the notion of defamations of religions to the legal instrument of incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence.

In the interactive dialogue with member states, France and then Belgium came out strongly, saying that people have rights, religions do not, and "the defamation of religions" has no place in human rights law. Almost as if they had read my statement (to come this afternoon we hope).

In his response to member states, Mr. Muigai clarified his position on the "shift" from defamation. This shift would eliminate "controversial nomenclature" while retaining the substance of the concerns and returning focus to the victims. He closed by expressing his support for the U.N. program on the Alliance of Civilizations, with which he has initiated a "dialogue." With that, the Special Rap. departed the floor, leaving behind a question mark about his commitment to freedom of expression.

Late in the day, Denmark spoke on behalf of the European paramount to insist on a distinction between criticism of religions and incitement to religion hatred, and to resist the integration of the "defamation of religions" into human rights law.


Tommy Blanchard said...

"France and then Belgium came out strongly, saying that people have rights, religions do not"

Well, that's good news! I hope your statement is well received. Keep up the good work.

Kate said...

Yah! I always felt liked the Danes. Solid reasonable folk. (Terrible food, though.)

Sorry you got bumped to tomorrow. A little stressful, no?

Kate said...

Er, liked. And also felt like, but that something else altogether.

Colin Koproske said...

I'm encouraged to see that we're not alone in reacting to this... Let me know how Monday goes!

Thorum said...

It is really hard for me to believe, let alone understand, that in today's world there is a "debate" about blasphemy. Great site!! Keep up the important work you do!!