UN Human Rights Council Passes “Defamation of Religions” Resolution by Slim Margin

March 25, 2010

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva today passed a resolution, backed by Islamic countries, to suppress criticism of religion in the name of defending human rights.  The Council passed a non-binding resolution targeting the so-called "defamation of religions," with 20 votes in favor, 17 against, and 8 abstentions.

As I noted in CFI's official statement against the resolution, the concept of "defamation of religions" is a perversion of human rights law.  International human rights law guarantees freedom of religious exercise, not freedom from insult; it guarantees nondiscrimination for individual believers, not shelter from criticism for belief systems. International law already protects religious believers against expression that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence.  The "defamation of religions" resolution goes much farther by seeking to protect religious belief systems instead of people.  Rather than protecting freedom of conscience and expression, the resolution provides cover to those who would restrict them.

Perhaps this is why criticism of, and opposition to, the concept of "defamation of religions" continues to mount.  Today's vote in favor of a non-binding resolution is the closest margin since the resolution was first introduced in 1999.  An ad hoc committee of the Human Rights Council continues to push for inclusion of a "defamation of religions" measure in binding international treaties.  Fortunately, attempts to fast-track the drafting of a formal treaty were defeated during this session of the Council.