States which fail to punish faith-based violence against religious and non-religious minorities, or which legitimize faith-based violence through laws against ‘blasphemy’ or ‘apostasy’, should have no seat on the UN Human Rights Council. This was the view presented by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) delegation to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
The 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council (Geneva, 10 September 2012) opened with a report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. Speaking in response to her report, IHEU Main Representative Roy Brown thanked her for her recognition of the problem of violence against religious minorities, however, reading a text drafted by team member Leo Igwe, pointed out the wider problem of discrimination, oppression and violence against the non-religious. Here is the full text of IHEU’s statement:
Faith-based Violence and the Non Religious
We welcome the remarks by the High Commissioner regarding violence against religious minorities.
Faith-based violence is a continuing scourge in many parts of the world. In Nigeria, Algeria, Sudan, Libya, Egyptand Mali armed groups with religious agendas are perpetrating widespread human rights abuses with impunity. They attack, kill, maim, mutilate or rape anyone perceived or imagined to be opposed to their particular religious cause.
Faith-based violence by state and non-state actors also persist in Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Saudi Arabia. And victims are often unable to seek redress in the courts because of entrenched religious privilege, and the lack of separation of religion and state.
Yet while religious minorities are often the victims of faith-based violence, the non-religious have long been the target and victims of religious extremism. In many States people without religion, including those who are critical of religious dogma or who renounce their religious beliefs, are treated with indignity, disrespect, threats and even violence. [In some States the non-religious are denied citizenship; the rights to life, freedom from torture, freedom of expression and association, and are subject to inhuman and degrading treatment]. In several member states of this Council, violence against the non-religious is legitimized through laws against apostasy and blasphemy punishable by death or long prison sentences.
Governments should be protecting, not penalizing the exercise of freedom of expression. There can be no true respect for freedom of religion when faith-based violence and abuses go unpunished. States that perpetrate or condone such acts are in breach of their obligations under the ICCPR, should be held accountable, and should surely not be accorded seats in this Council.
We urge all States to do far more to combat faith-based violence against both religious minorities and the non-religious, and we call upon one member state of this Council in particular to stop their funding of world-wide religious extremism. Thank you Madam President