UN HRC: Over 100 Organisations Urge Council to Reject “Defamation of Religions” and Protect Freedom of Expression

In International Advocacy Program by


Geneva 10.03.11: More than one hundred civil society organisations from around the world have signed a letter urging Member States at the sixteenth session of the Human Rights Council to vote against any resolution which refers to defamation of religions or similar terms such as “vilification” and “denigration” of religions and religious symbols.


According to the statement, led by ARTICLE 19, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Human Rights Watch, resolutions on “defamation of religions” and similar terms, such as “vilification” or “denigration” of religions”, undermine international human rights law on freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination. 


The signatory organisations argue that there is a growing consensus amongst states at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly that such concepts are “counterproductive to global efforts to combat discrimination against religious minorities and serves to entrench repression and violence against non-believers, members of religious minorities and political dissidents”. The statement also notes that debates surrounding the issue of “defamation of religions” have been “among the most polarising at the UN and have had the effect of stalling international cooperation on other human rights issues.”


The organisations are calling on the Human Rights Council to renegotiate the resolution on “combating defamation of religions” and reject any reference to “defamation” or “denigration” of religions and to instead promote the full implementation of international human rights law on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination as well as the development of strategies on intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.



• For more information please contact Sejal Parmar, Senior Legal Officer, +44 20 7324 2500 sejal@article19.org or Jeremie Smith, Director, Geneva Office, Cairo Institute for Human Rights jsmith@cihrs.org
• For the letter see www.article19.org/pdfs/letters/-defamation-and-denigration-of-religions-at-the-16th-session-of-the-united-n.pdf
• For link to flyer of Human Rights Council side-event chaired by Jeremie Smith and featuring Sejal Parmar as a speaker see www.article19.org/pdfs/press/evolution-of-the-recent-debate-on-defamation-of-religions-.pdf
• ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works around the world to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. 

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