THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
INTERIM REPORT– U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR
ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Issue: Interim Report – U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
For: United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media, Civil Society
Review: The Interim Report (A/63/161) will be
transmitted to the General Assembly in
The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief submits the present report to the General Assembly pursuant to its resolution 62/157. In the report, she gives an overview of the activities carried out under the mandate since the submission of her previous report to the Assembly (A/62/280) and Corr.1), including her recent visits to Angola, India, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Special Rapporteur addresses citizenship issues and religious discrimination in administrative procedures, a cross-cutting substantive topic of her mandate. After providing an overview of the pertinent State practice and domestic legislation, she examines the applicable international legal standards and case law. She notes that while most State does not openly discriminate on the basis of religion with respect to citizenship issues and in administrative procedures, there are instances where State practice or domestic legislation is inconsistent with human rights standards. In particular she is concerned about the denial or deprivation of citizenship based on a person’s religious affiliation compulsory mentioning of selected religions on official identity cards or passports; requirements to denounce a particular faith when applying for official documents and restricted eligibility for State functions for persons of certain faiths.
The Special Rapporteur presents conclusions and recommendations with regard to citizenship issues and administrative procedures in the context of her mandate. She emphasizes that the legitimate interests of the State have to be balance on a case-by-case basis with the individual’s freedom of religion or belief also taking into account his or her right to privacy, liberty of movement, right to nationality and the principle of non-discrimination.. She highlights some aspect that may help to determine whether certain restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief in the context of citizenship issues and administrative procedures are in contravention of human rights law.
Link to Interim Report of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief:
Excerpts: Excerpts are presented under the Eight Articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Examples of extracts are presented prior to an Issue Statement for each Review.
Report to the Third Committee (A/63/161) of Ms.
IV. Conclusions and recommendations
67. The State practice and domestic legislation on citizenship issues and administrative procedures as outlined above (see 25-66 above) shows that Governments sometimes impose restrictions in such a way that the right to freedom of religion or belief of the persons concerned is adversely affected. While the State may have a legitimate interest in limiting some manifestations of the freedom of religion or belief, when applying limitations the State must ensure that certain conditions are fulfilled. Any limitation must be based on the grounds of public safety, order, health, morals of the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, it must respond to a pressing public or social need, it must pursue a legitimate aim and it must be proportionate to that aim.
68. In essence, freedom of religion or belief and the legitimate interests of the State will have to be balanced on a case-by-case basis. In addition to the right to freedom of religion or belief the individual’s right to privacy and liberty of movement, his or her right to a nationality as well as the principle of non-discrimination may also be at stake. Keeping in mind this case-by-case approach and the balancing exercise, the Special Rapporteur would like to highlight some aspects that may help to determine whether certain restrictions on the right to freedom of religion or belief are in contravention of human rights law.
69. The State cannot impose or interpret limitations in a way that would jeopardize the essence of the right concerned. Consequently, forcing someone who wishes to take up a public post to take an oath swearing his or her allegiance to a certain religion may amount to coercion by the State and would violate the individual’s freedom of religion or belief. Similarly inconsistent with article 18 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights would be citizenship policies or practices which restrict access to education, medical care, employment, humanitarian assistance or social benefits in order to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to, recant or change their religious beliefs.
70. Measures that discriminate on the basis of religion or belief, or lead to de facto discrimination on such grounds, violate human rights standards. Consequently, it would be contrary to the principle of non-discrimination to restrict citizenship to people with certain religious beliefs or to deny official documents based on the applicant’s religious affiliation. It is also a discriminatory State practice to restrict public posts to member of certain religions or to require candidates to adhere to a particular denomination of the dominant religion in that State. However, the principle of equality may require States to take affirmative action in order to diminish or eliminate conditions which cause or help to perpetuate discrimination. Thus, reserving a certain proportion of seats in legislatures to members of religious minorities might be a case of legitimate differentiation as long as such action is needed to correct discrimination in fact.
71. Measures that limit the freedom of religion or belief must pursue a legitimate aim and be proportionate to the aim. Furthermore, any assessment as to the necessity of a limitation should be based on objective considerations.
72. It would be a legitimate aim were a State to ask for the religious affiliation of its citizens, for example, within the framework of conducting a national census that will allow the State to analyze issues related to freedom of religion or belief. However, the burden of justifying a limitation on human rights such as freedom of religion or belief or the individual’s right to privacy lies with the State.
73. Laws imposing limitations on the exercise of human rights should not be arbitrary or unreasonable. If the State wishes to mention religious affiliation on official documents, various categories of affiliation, including open-ended ones, need to be provided. It is never sufficient to provide as the only possibility a choice from a limited number of official recognized religions; there should also be the possibility for the individual to indicate “other religion” or “no religion”, and the possibility not to divulge his or her religious beliefs at all. In general, any indication of one’s religious affiliation should be on a voluntary basis.
74. All limitations should be interpreted in the light and context of the particular right concerned. Taking into account the nature of the positive and negative freedom of religion or belief, applicants for official documents should not be obliged to subscribe to specific statements with regard to their substantive religious beliefs.
75. Governments may argue that they need to be informed of the religious affiliation of their citizens in order to know, for example, under which (religious) personal law a marriage should be registered. When restricting the freedom of religion or belief, however, a State should use no more restrictive means than are required for the achievement or the purpose of the limitation. A less restrictive means from the individual’s perspective could be devised by the State, for example, by providing a civil alternative for the registration of marriages.
76. As article 12(3) of the International covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires that nay restrictions on the liberty of movement must be consistent with the other rights recognized in the Covenant, it seems advisable to remove questions in passport or visa application forms concerning the applicant’s religious affiliation.
77. Indicating a person’s religious affiliation on official documents carries a serious risk of abuse or subsequent discrimination based on religion or belief, which has to be weighed against the possible reasons for disclosing the holder’s religion.
78. Every limitation imposed should be subject to the possibility of challenge to and remedy against its abusive application. Fundamental fairness and the right to appeal must be guaranteed in all citizenship and administrative procedures.
ISSUE STATEMENT: The Conclusions and Recommendations by
Submit information under the Eight Articles and sub-paragraphs of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief by using The Tandem Project Country & Community Database.
Introduction: The Tandem Project is dedicated to support for International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The focus is on fundamental values shared virtually universally by public, private, religious and non-religious organizations to change how our cultures view differences, how we often behave toward one another and to forestall the reflexive hostility we see so vividly around the world.
As we are all painfully
aware, religious conflict continues to escalate worldwide whether in the
Surely one of the best hopes for the future of humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
The Tandem Project: a non-governmental organization founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project, a non-profit NGO, has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project initiative is the result of a co-founder representing the World Federation of United Nations Associations at the United Nations Geneva Seminar, Encouragement of Understanding, Tolerance and Respect in Matters Relating to Freedom of Religion or Belief, called by the UN Secretariat in 1984 on ways to implement the 1981 UN Declaration. In 1986, The Tandem Project organized the first NGO International Conference on the 1981 UN Declaration.
The Tandem Project Executive Director is: Michael M. Roan, email@example.com.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Purpose: To build understanding and support for Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights –Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Encourage the United Nations, Governments, Religions or Beliefs, Academia, NGOs, Media and Civil Society to consider the rule of law and International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as essential for long-term solutions to conflicts in all matters relating to religion or belief.
Challenge: In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance, because of its apparent complexity and sensitivity. In the twenty-first century, a dramatic increase of intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief is motivating a worldwide search to find solutions to these problems. This is a challenge calling for enhanced dialogue by States and others; including consideration of an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief for protection of and accountability by all religions or beliefs. The tensions in today’s world inspire a question such as:
Should the United Nations adopt an International Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief?
Response: Is it the appropriate moment to
reinitiate the drafting of a legally binding international convention on
freedom of religion or belief? Law making of this nature requires a minimum
consensus and an environment that appeals to reason rather than emotions. At
the same time we are on a learning curve as the various dimensions of the
Declaration are being explored. Many academics have produced voluminous books
on these questions but more ground has to be prepared before setting up of a UN
working group on drafting a convention. In my opinion, we should not try to
rush the elaboration of a Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
especially not in times of high tensions and unpreparedness. - UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
Option: After forty years this may be the time, however complex and sensitive, for the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint an Open-ended Working Group to draft a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The mandate for an Open-ended Working Group ought to assure nothing in a draft Convention will be construed as restricting or derogating from any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Human Rights, and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
Separation of Religion or Belief and State
Concept: Separation of Religion or Belief and State - SOROBAS. The First Preamble to the 1948 United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads; “Whereas
recognition of the inherent
dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. This concept suggests
States recalling their history, culture and constitution adopt fair and equal
human rights protection for all religions or beliefs as described in General
Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
UN Human Rights Committee,
Article 18: protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The terms belief and religion are to be broadly construed. Article 18 is not limited in its application to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with international characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reasons, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community. Article 18: permits restrictions to manifest a religion or belief only if such limitations are prescribed by law and necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
The Tandem Project uses International Human Rights
Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief to review the actions of
governments, religions or beliefs, non-governmental organizations and civil
society under constitutional systems such as Separation of Church and State,
Objectives: The Tandem Project Objectives:
Dialogue: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “Never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.” A writer in another setting has said, “The warning signs are clear: unless we establish genuine dialogue within and among all kinds of belief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, the conflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly.”
International Human Rights Standards on Freedom or Religion or Belief are international law and universal codes of conduct for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts. The standards are a platform for genuine dialogue on core principles and values within and among nations, all religions and other beliefs.
The 1981 U.N. Declaration states; “Every child shall enjoy the right to have access to education in the matter of religion or belief in accordance with the wishes of his parents, and shall not be compelled to receive teaching on religion or belief against the wishes of his parents, the best interests of the child being the guiding principle.” With International Human Rights safeguards, early childhood education is the best time to begin to build tolerance, understanding and respect for freedom of religion or belief.