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UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

PAKISTAN

Second Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (5-19 May, 2008)

UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

Date of consideration: Thursday 8 May 2008 - 2.30 p.m. - 5.30 p.m.

 

National report 1 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

      

  

 Compilation of UN information 2 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

 

  

Summary of stakeholders' information 3 :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

  

Questions submitted in advance

 

           

Outcome of the review   :

 

Report of the Working group   :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

Addendum 1   :

 A | C | E | F | R | S

Decision on the outcome   :

 E only

  

Report of the eight session of the Human Rights Council   :

 A | C | E | FR | S

 

Related webcast archives

 

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for an Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review, Process and News:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BasicFacts.aspx

The primary international human rights instruments on freedom of religion or belief are: Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief:  http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.


FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

Source: U.S. State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report, Pakistan

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127370.htm

Introduction:

The country is an Islamic republic. Islam is the state religion, and the Constitution requires that laws be consistent with Islam. The Constitution states that "subject to law, public order, and morality, every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice, and propagate his religion;" in practice the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion. Freedom of speech is constitutionally, "subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam."

The Government took some steps to improve its treatment of religious minorities during the reporting period. The democratically elected Government appointed a Roman Catholic as Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs and upgraded his position to a cabinet minister. The Government allocated a 5 percent quota for religious minorities in all federal jobs, and directed provincial governments to implement the same at the provincial level. The Government also decided to celebrate Minorities' Day on August 11 every year nationwide. Despite these steps, serious problems remained. Law enforcement personnel abused religious minorities in custody. Security forces and other government agencies did not adequately prevent or address societal abuse against minorities. Discriminatory legislation and the Government's failure to take action against societal forces hostile to those who practice a different religious belief fostered religious intolerance, acts of violence, and intimidation against religious minorities. Specific laws that discriminate against religious minorities include anti-Ahmadi and blasphemy laws that provide the death penalty for defiling Islam or its prophets. The Ahmadiyya community continued to face governmental and societal discrimination and legal bars to the practice of its religious beliefs. Members of other Islamic sects also claimed governmental discrimination.

Relations between religious communities were tense. Societal discrimination against religious minorities was widespread, and societal violence against such groups occurred. Non-governmental actors, including terrorist and extremist groups and individuals, targeted religious congregations. A domestic insurgency led by Sunni Taliban elements increased acts of violence and intimidation against religious minorities and exacerbated existing sectarian tensions. An extremist insurgency increased its efforts to impose its extremist religious views on the majority. Extremists demanded that Muslims with progressive views, particularly women, follow a strict version of Islam and threatened dire consequences if they did not abide by it.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the reporting period, U.S. Embassy officials closely monitored the treatment of religious minorities, worked to eliminate the teaching of religious intolerance, and encouraged amendment of the blasphemy laws.

Source: U.S. State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report; Pakistan

1. Pakistan - Religious Demography

The country has an area of 310,527 square miles and a population of 168 million. Official figures on religious demography, based on the most recent census, taken in 1998, showed that approximately 96 percent of the population was Muslim. Groups comprising 2 percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, and others including Ahmadis. The majority of Muslims in the country are Sunni, with a Shi'a minority ranging between 10 to 20 percent. Parsis (Zoroastrians), Sikhs, and Buddhists each had approximately 20,000 adherents, while the Baha'i claimed 30,000. Some tribes in Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) practiced traditional animist religions.

Less than 0.5 percent of the population was silent on religion or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons would claim no religious affiliation.

2. Pakistan - Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion. It also declares that adequate provisions shall be made for minorities to profess and practice their religions freely; however, in reality the Government imposes limits on freedom of religion, particularly on Ahmadis.

A 1974 constitutional amendment declares Ahmadis to be non-Muslim. Section 298(c), commonly referred to as the "anti-Ahmadi laws," prohibits Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims, referring to their faith as Islam, preaching or propagating their faith, inviting others to accept the Ahmadi faith, or insulting the religious feelings of Muslims. The punishment for violation of the section is imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine. Other religious communities were generally free to observe their religious obligations; however, religious minorities are legally restricted from public display of certain religious images and, due to discriminatory legislation and social pressure, are often afraid to profess their religion freely.

Freedom of speech is subject to "reasonable" restrictions in the interests of the "glory of Islam." The consequences for contravening the country's blasphemy laws are death for defiling Islam or its prophets; life imprisonment for defiling, damaging, or desecrating the Qur'an; and 10 years' imprisonment for insulting another's religious feelings. These laws are often used to settle personal scores as well as to intimidate reform-minded Muslims, sectarian opponents, and religious minorities. Under the Anti-Terrorist Act, any action, including speech, intended to stir up religious hatred is punishable by up to 7 years of imprisonment. Under the act, bail is not to be granted if the judge has reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is guilty; however, the law is applied selectively.

In addition, any speech or conduct that injures another's religious feelings, including those of minority religious groups, is prohibited and punishable by imprisonment. However, in cases where the religious feelings of a minority religion were insulted, the blasphemy laws were rarely enforced and cases rarely brought to the legal system. A 2005 law requires that a senior police official investigate any blasphemy charge before a complaint is filed.

The Penal Code ostensibly incorporates a number of Islamic law (Shari'a) provisions. The judicial system encompasses several different court systems with overlapping and sometimes competing jurisdictions that reflect differences in civil, criminal, and Islamic jurisprudence. The federal Shari'a court and the Shari'a bench of the Supreme Court serve as appellate courts for certain convictions in criminal court under the Hudood Ordinances; judges and attorneys in these courts must be Muslim. The federal Shari'a court may overturn any legislation judged to be inconsistent with the tenets of Islam. In March 2005, in a blow to the power of the Shariat appellate benches, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, issuing a stay in the Mukhtaran Mai rape case, ruled that the federal Shari'a court had no jurisdiction to review a decision by a provincial high court even if the federal Shari'a court should have had initial appellate jurisdiction.

3. Pakistan - Restrictions on Freedom of Religion or Belief

The Government used anti-Ahmadi laws to target Ahmadis. The vague wording of the provision forbids Ahmadis from directly or indirectly posing as Muslims enabled officials to bring charges against Ahmadis for using the standard Muslim greeting form and for naming their children Muhammad. The Ahmadi community claimed that during the period covered by this report, 28 Ahmadis faced criminal charges under religious laws or because of their faith: 4 under the blasphemy laws, 17 under Ahmadi-specific laws, and 7 under other laws but motivated by their Ahmadi faith.

At the end of April 2006, four Ahmadis were in prison on blasphemy charges; one was in prison and two more were out on bail facing murder charges that the Ahmadiyya community claims were falsely brought due to their religious beliefs. Seven more criminal cases, ranging from murder to destruction of property, were filed against prominent members of the Ahmadi community during the reporting period. The cases remained unprosecuted and the accused were allowed to post bail.

Ahmadis continued to be arrested for preaching their faith. In July 2006 four Ahmadis were arrested in Sialkot District under the anti-Ahmadi laws for preaching.

In August 2006 Mian Mohammed Yar was charged under the anti-Ahmadi laws on the charge of preaching. He was the president of the local Ahmadi community.

Since 1983 Ahmadis have been prohibited from holding public conferences or gatherings, they have been denied permission to hold their annual conference. Ahmadis were banned from preaching and were prohibited from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj or other religious pilgrimages. Ahmadi publications were banned from public sale, but they published religious literature in large quantities for a limited circulation.

While the Constitution guarantees the right to establish places of worship and train clergy, in practice Ahmadis suffered from restrictions on this right. According to press reports, authorities continued to conduct surveillance on Ahmadis and their institutions. Several Ahmadi mosques reportedly were closed; others reportedly were desecrated or had their construction stopped.

Public pressure routinely prevented courts from protecting minority rights. These same pressures forced justices to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. Discrimination against religious minorities was rarely placed before the judiciary. Courts would be unlikely to act objectively in such cases. Resolving cases was very slow; there was generally a long period between filing the case and the first court appearance. Lower courts were frequently intimidated, delayed decisions, and refused bail for fear of reprisal from extremist elements. Bail in blasphemy cases was usually denied by original trial courts, arguing that since defendants faced the death penalty, they were likely to flee. Many defendants appealed the denial of bail, but bail was often not granted in advance of the trial.

4. Pakistan - Societal Abuse and Discrimination

Relations between the country's religious communities remained tense. Violence against religious minorities and between Muslim sects continued. Most believed that a small minority were responsible for attacks; however, discriminatory laws and the teaching of religious intolerance created a permissive environment for attacks. Police often refused to prevent violence and harassment or refused to charge persons who commit such offenses.

Mobs occasionally attacked individuals accused of blasphemy, their family, or their religious community prior to their arrest. When blasphemy and other religious cases were brought to court, extremists often packed the courtroom and made public threats against an acquittal. Religious extremists continued to threaten to kill those acquitted of blasphemy charges. High-profile accused persons often went into hiding or emigrated after acquittal.

On April 8, 2007, local extremists tortured and killed Chaudhry Habibullah Sial, an 82-year old Ahmadi man who was using his home as a prayer center for Ahmadis.
On March 1, 2007, a former police officer killed Mohammed Ashraf, an Ahmadi, because Ashraf changed his religion from Sunni to Ahmadi. The killer claimed to have done nothing wrong and that he followed Islamic law, since apostasy is punishable by death.

In November 2006 two Ahmadi men in Bagar Sargana were attacked by a mob on their way home after Friday prayers.

In October 2006 an Ahmadi imam at a mosque in Chawinda was attacked in his apartment in the mosque complex.

In September 2006 Professor Abdul Basit, an Ahmadi, was attacked in his home in Dera Ghazi Khan.

On August 22, 2006, Munawwar Ahmad Sahib, an Ahmadi, was killed by two gunmen in his home in Gujrat.

In August 2006 an Ahmadi youth, Etzaz Ahmad, was attacked in the shop where he worked as an apprentice. The attacker said he was trying to kill an infidel.

Ahmadi individuals and institutions long have been victims of religious violence, much of which organized religious extremists instigated. Ahmadi leaders charged that in previous years militant Sunni mullahs and their followers staged sometimes violent anti-Ahmadi marches through the streets of Rabwah, a predominantly Ahmadi town and spiritual center in central Punjab. Backed by crowds of between 100 and 200 persons, the mullahs reportedly denounced Ahmadis and their founder, a situation that sometimes led to violence. The Ahmadis claimed that police generally were present during these marches but did not intervene to prevent violence. In contrast with the previous report, there were no such reports during this reporting period.

Violence against and harassment of Christians continued during the period covered by this report. Many Christians, descended from low-caste Hindu ancestors, faced discrimination more for ethnic and social reasons than religious.

Source: U.S. State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report; Pakistan

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2008/108505.htm

Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.


U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ACTIONS

After three years of contentious debate over the 2007 U.N. Special Rapporteur’s Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief the U.N. Human Rights Council had a breakthrough in June 2010 and achieved consensus on (A/HRC/RES/11/14). In 2007 the Mandate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37) failed to achieve consensus because of objections by U.N. Human Rights Council Members in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and others over Article 9 (a) the right to change one’s religion or belief:

2007 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/6/37)

Article 9. Urges States:

  • (a) To ensure that their constitutional and legislative systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief to all without distinction, inter alia, by the provision of effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, or the right to practice freely one’s religion, including the right to change one’s religion or belief, is violated;

Pakistan speaking on behalf of 57 countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)  objected by saying, “It called  for respect for norms about the right to change one’s religion.  The EU draft explicitly urges States to guarantee the right to change one’s religion or belief,  a requirement the OIC could not subscribe to.”

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU) said over 40 paragraphs in the draft resolution was eliminated in an attempt at consensus with the abstaining states, but consensus over the right to leave one’s religion or belief is inviolable and could not be compromised.  The Resolution (A/HRC/RES/6/37) with recorded votes can be viewed by clicking on this link:

http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/E/HRC/resolutions/A_HRC_RES_6_37.pdf

2010 Mandate on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11)

At the 14th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2010 objections were dropped by Pakistan and the OIC and consensus was achieved on the draft resolution for the Mandate of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (A/HRC/RES/14/11).  Objections by Pakistan and the OIC were over the right to change one’s religion and language identifying one religion, Islamophobia. There have been objections to identifying one specific religion. A phobia or abnormal fear if religious or otherwise causes discrimination based on religion or belief is a violation of international human rights law. Islamophobia was not included in the June 2010 resolution but may be drafted to other documents on hate crimes and blasphemy. These statements without identifying Islamophobia seem to satisfy consensus achieved in the new mandate: 

6. Expresses concern at the continued existence of instances of religious intolerance, as well as at  merging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, inter alia: (a) Instances of intolerance and violence directed against members of many religious minorities and other communities in various parts of the world;

(b) Incidents of religious hatred, discrimination, intolerance and violence, which may be manifested by the derogatory stereotyping, negative profiling and stigmatization of persons based on their religion or belief;

(c) Attacks on religious places, sites and shrines in violation of international law, in particular human rights and humanitarian law, as they have more than material significance on the dignity and lives of members of communities holding spiritual or religious beliefs

IMPLEMENTATION

Article 9 (a) was not included in the resolution of June 2010 on the mandate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.  Did the European Union (EU) drop the article in a compromise with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to achieve consensus or does consensus signal change on the issue of Islam and apostasy?  All provisions of article 9 (a) should be monitored in future reports on this mandate to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

If the U.N. Human Rights Council did not intend to include provisions of article 9 (a) in the June 2010 mandate it will be a step backward and increasingly hard to build awareness, understanding and use of the provisions on universal human rights and freedom of religion or belief. If the intent by consensus were to include provisions of article 9 (a) it will be a significant step forward. Human Rights Education (HRE) curricula on the provisions of article 9 (a) should be written specifically for governments and non-governmental organizations,  religions or beliefs, civil society, schools and places of worship, including for leaders of the Ummah, the family of Islam, in Islamic schools and mosques. 

Implementation must respect the sensitivity and complexity of this issue which does not call for changing one’s religious beliefs or worldviews, but holding them in tandem with the U.N. meaning of universal human rights and freedom of religion or belief.     


 

  • HISTORY: The United Nations failed to achieve consensus on a legally binding international treaty on religious intolerance, settling instead for the non-binding 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion or Belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm

  • STATISTICS: The United Nations protects all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. Statistics: builds the case for an  inclusive and genuine approach to implementing human rights and freedom of religion or belief.

http://www.tandemproject.com/program/major_religions.htm

THE TANDEM PROJECT 

1984: Co-founder of The Tandem Project represented the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in 1984 at the two week Geneva Seminar called by the UN Secretariat on how to implement the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In 1986 The Tandem Project hosted the first International Conference on the 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

1986: Minnesota held the first International Conference on how to implement the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Thirty-five international delegates and thirty-five Minnesota delegates were invited. Minnesota organizations and individuals proposed twenty- seven Community Strategies on how to implement the 1981 U.N. Declaration under: Synopsis, Strategy, Objectives, Program Approach, Obstacles and Outcomes. These Community Strategies can be read on the following link:

Minnesota Community Strategieshttp://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf .

2010: Since 1986 The Tandem Project has built support for Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief simultaneously from top down and ground up. In 1986 top down was  the U.N. Human Rights Commission, now its successor the U.N. Human Rights Council.  The Tandem Project follow-up for Universal Periodic Reviews & Freedom of Religion or Belief includes; Forums for Places of Worship, Academic Discourse, Schools, Women and Civil Society.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The government of Pakistan at the UN Human Rights Council speaks for itself and at times for the 57 UN member states that belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), one of only two religious organizations (the other the Holy See) with permanent observer status with the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly. In 2007 Pakistan and the OIC while supportive of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, abstained on a vote by the Council (A/HRC/RES/6/37) extending the mandate by three years, because the resolution touched “concerns of fundamental importance to the members of the OIC,” urging states to guarantee the right to “change one’s religion or belief.” Portugal speaking before the vote said it had “no other option than bringing the draft to a vote, but pledged to take up negotiations again; hoping consensus on the issue could be re-established soon” (Attachment). 

The UN Human Rights Council must continue negotiations on this core religious-political issue to build consensus between international human rights law on freedom of religion or belief and fundamental concerns of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Pakistan following their Universal Periodic Review should increase dialogue with Pakistani civil society on issues in their constitution and legal penal codes, the blasphemy laws and apostasy, not in compliance with international law on freedom of religion or belief. Violence, intolerance and discrimination at the local level, especially in rural areas in Pakistan are reflected in the Stakeholder letters and the US State Department 2008 International Religious Freedom on Pakistan. These are sensitive and incendiary issues based on deeply-held religious beliefs and local customs requiring a long-term commitment to education by the Pakistan government to build awareness, understanding and acceptance at the national and local level with international standards on freedom of religion or belief. These issues set the tone for The Tandem Project Follow-up based on General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights available at:

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

CONTACTS

The Tandem Project Follow-up will seek an exchange of information on approaches to freedom of religion or belief,to bridge human rights proclaimed in treaties at the international level with the reality of implementation in Pakistan at a national and local level.

National Commission for Justice and Peace: This is a joint Stakeholder submission prepared by civil society organizations working in Pakistan who, in the words of the submission, “believe in the destiny of the people of Pakistan as an honorable, peaceful and responsible nation.” The draft was prepared through a consultative process, meetings and feedback and jointly submitted by these civil society organizations: Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Lok Sangat, National Commission for Justice and Peace, Democratic Commission for Human Development, Pakistan Forum for Social Democracy and Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO). Several Human Rights NGOs in Pakistan agreed with the substance of the submission but were not co-signers.

http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session2/PK/NCJP_PAK_UPR_S2_2008_NationalCommissionforJusticeandPeace_uprsubmission_JOINT.pdf.  

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: http://www.hrcp-web.org/default.asp

Since 1987, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has developed to become a broad-spectrum, countrywide human rights body. Nationally, the HRCP has established a leading role in providing a highly informed and independent voice in the struggle for human rights and democratic development in Pakistan – a role increasingly recognized internationally, also. It is an independent, voluntary, non-political, non-profit making, non-governmental organization, registered under the Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860), with its secretariat office in Lahore. Its mission includes: (1) to work for the ratification and implementation by Pakistan of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of other related Charters, Covenants, Protocols, Resolutions, Recommendations and internationally adopted norms; (2) to promote studies in the field of human rights and mobilize public opinion in favour of accepted norms through all available media and forums, and to carry out every category of activity to further the cause; (3) to cooperate with an aid national and international groups, organizations and individuals engaged in the promotion of human rights and to participate in meetings and congresses on human rights at home and abroad; (4) to take appropriate action to prevent violations of human rights and to provide legal aid and other assistance to victims of those violations and to individuals and groups striving to protect human rights.
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty: http://www.becketfund.org.
 The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm “protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. They are nonprofit, nonpartisan, and interfaith. The Becket Fund operates in three areas: the courts of law (litigation), the court of public opinion (media) and in the academy (scholarship), at home and abroad (international).” The Becket Fund is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.  http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session2/PK/BFRL_PAK_UPR_S2_2008_BecketFundforReligiousLiberty_uprsubmission.pdf.  
Institute on Religion and Public Policy:: http://www.religionandpolicy.org/cms/. The Institute for Religion and Public Policy is an “international, inter-religious nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring freedom of religion as the foundation for security, stability and democracy. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Washington D.C., the Institute recognizes that religious freedom is more than just a church-state issue. As such, the Institute engages every segment of society to protect humankind’s most basic fundament right: freedom of religion or belief.” http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session2/PK/IRPP_PAK_UPR_S2_2008_IntituteonReligionandPublicPolicy_uprsubmission.pdf.
Amnesty International: http://www.amnesty.org/

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Amnesty International recipient of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize has won many awards for human rights.
http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session2/PK/AI_PAK_UPR_S2_2008_AmnestyInternational_uprsubmission.pdf.

Reflections

The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: 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.

Surely one of the best hopes for 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.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible use of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to consider whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs. Can international human rights law help to stop the advance and use of such weapons in the face of this historic truth?

  • QUESTION: Weapons of mass destruction as history teaches are legitimized for national security and justified by ethnic and religious ideology. The U.N. Review Conference on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and studies on biological and cyber weapons demonstrate advances in science and technology is being used to increase their potential for mass destruction. The question is whether an International Convention on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief, elevated and supported equally by the U.N. Human Rights Council and U.N. Security Council, would help offset the  risk of weapons of mass destruction. Recognition of the need for synergy to balance rights and security is the foundation for solving this issue.

“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” - Robert Oppenheimer, quote from the Bhagavad Gita after exploding the first atomic bomb, Trinity 1945.

The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material 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 the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

Disclaimer: The Tandem Project does not represent the institutions, organizations or individuals in Universal Periodic Reviews and is not endorsed by them. This word document is for an exchange information and ideas as a follow-up to the Pakistan Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Documents Attached: Pakistan - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief; United States - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Islam & Apostasy - Opportunity for Deeper Dialogue; New York City - Forum for Places of Worship