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The international humanist team at the UN Geneva led by IHEU spoke three times in the debate on civil and political rights at the Human Rights Council on Tuesday 4th June 2013.

Roy Brown, speaking for IHEU, condemned inhuman and degrading punishments in the Islamic States. Hannah Bock, speaking on this occasion for the British Humanist Association highlighted the cruelty and lack of compassion inherent in restrictions on legal abortion, and Elizabeth O'Casey, for Center for Inquiry condemned the practice of honour killing and the impunity often granted to the perpetrators.

Here are the full texts of their three speeches.    

International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 23rd Session, 27 May to 14 June 2013

Speaker: IHEU Main Representative, Roy W Brown: Tuesday 4 June 2013

Agenda Item 3: Civil and Political Rights

Inhuman and degrading punishment in OIC member states

 

Mr President,

Public executions were commonplace in the England throughout the Middle Ages and were often attended by crowds of onlookers. But the last public execution in England took place in 1868. The last witchcraft trial in Europe took place in Switzerland in 1782.

Civilisation moves on, but not apparently in certain member states of the OIC.   

Article 7 of the ICCPR states quite categorically that “no-one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and this injunction clearly applies to public executions, whether by beheading , by hanging or by a bullet in the back of the head.  

Yet as we heard in the last session of this Council, torture is still commonplace throughout the Islamic republic of Iran.[1]

In Saudi Arabia last month, five Yemeni men were publicly beheaded and their bodies then displayed in public, crucifixion-style.[2]

In April a Saudi court ordered that a man’s spine be severed because his mother could not afford to pay the blood money demanded.[3]

Just last month, two maids were reportedly sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1000 lashes for so-called “witchcraft” – a totally imaginary offence.[4]

Mr President, we call upon the OIC to:

·         utterly condemn public executions and physical mutilation of anyone, whatever their alleged crime, in all its member states

·         to demand the abolition of the non-existent crime of witchcraft

·         to insist that the death sentence only be imposed after due process in which the defendant  has been properly represented,

·         that until such safeguards exist, to put in place a moratorium on the death penalty,

·         and to demand that all of its member states fully respect their obligations under the ICCPR.

Thank you sir.



[4] http://www.emirates247.com/crime/region/two-maids-get-10-years-1-000-lashes-for-sorcery-2013-05-20-1.507147

 

 British Humanist Association

Joint statement with International Humanist and Ethical Union and Center for Inquiry

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 23st Session, 27. May –14 June

Speaker: IHEU Representative, Hannah Bock, 4 June 2013

Agenda Item 3: Civil and Political Rights

 Women’s rights, contraception and abortion

 

Thank you sir.

Mr President, one out of every five American women has been the victim of an attempted or actual rape in her lifetime[1], that’s more than a million women every year, 44% under the age of 18. Many such rapes lead to conception. But in many states, including North Dakota[2] and Mississippi[3], women are facing ever more severe obstacles that will effectively make abortion impossible.  Yet it is now well established that restricting abortion doesn’t save babies, it kills mothers through clandestine abortion, and demonstrates an appalling lack of compassion for the women involved.[4]

In San Salvador a court refused an abortion to a woman whose fetus had no brain or chance of survival even though the woman will probably die if the pregnancy comes to term.[5]

In Malta a woman has absolutely no right to an abortion under any circumstances.[6]

In Nicaragua women are denied abortions even in the case of ectopic pregnancies which, if allowed to proceed to term, kill both mother and child.[7]

Why do many states that outlaw abortion also restrict access to contraception when contraceptive use is such an effective means of reducing abortion demand? And why have so many states outlawed the sale of post-coital contraceptives, which are not abortifacients?

The answer lies in the extraordinarily successful anti-abortion campaigns run by the Catholic Church and religious fundamentalists. But the facts demonstrate that they are actually more interested in punishing women than in saving the unborn.

We urge the Council to make it clear that legal and administrative obstacles that restrict access to contraception, and that deny a woman’s right to an abortion, especially after being raped or when her life is at risk, are utterly abhorrent to this Council.

Thank you sir.

 



[7]http://global.christianpost.com/news/abortion-ban-in-nicaragua-needlessly-endangering-womens-lives-say-activists-60425/

 

Centre for Inquiry

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: 23rd Session 27 May – 14 June 2013

Speaker: CFI Representative, Elizabeth O’Casey, Tuesday 4 June 2013

Agenda Item 3: Civil and Political Rights

 

Violence against Women: Honour Killings

 

Mr President,

The UN has estimated that as many as one in three women across the world has been beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her the course of her lifetime[1].

There are many forms of violence committed against women globally everyday, and all are brutal: the trafficking of women, forced prostitution, marriage into slavery, rape, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced feeding, and so-called “honour” killings.

There are estimated to be between 5,000 and 20,000 honour killings committed every year[2]. These killings, defended in the name of family honour, involve women and girls being burned, shot, buried alive, strangled, stoned, and stabbed to death.

What is equally shocking is the discriminatory laws many countries have in place that allow for the full or partial exemption of those guilty of committing honour killings. In some societies, those guilty are actually granted particular respect.

[As the High Commissioner for Human Rights herself has noted: “The reality for most victims, including victims of honor killings, is that state institutions fail them and that most perpetrators of domestic violence can rely on a culture of impunity for the acts they commit”[3].]

This has to change, Mr President. We can no longer stand by and watch this horrific violence against women go unpunished. This barbaric practice is justified on cultural and religious grounds. We must not allow such grounds to be used to legitimize or excuse such an abhorrent abuse of a woman’s right to life, her right to equality, her right to freedom, or her right to dignity.

We urge all member states to do more to protect women from this sort of violence, to punish those who commit it, and to condemn the culture of impunity and religious justification, which not only allows, but encourages, such barbarity.

Thank you, sir.



[1] http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/pdf/VAW.pdf

[2]www.worldwewant2015.org/file/282880/download/306690

[3]http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=9869&LangID=E

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