Term 7.1.1: Set Forth in Legislation


To restrict means to keep within limits, to confine. To derogate is to take away, belittle or disparage. Article 8 is a legal statement that says the 1981 U.N. Declaration can not limit the powers of what has come to be called the “U.N. Bill of Human Rights,” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultral Rights (ICESCR). There were arguments in drafting the 1981 U.N. Declaration that threatened to take away established rights. Most notable is the absence of an explicit reference to change one’s religion or belief. This reference was omitted from the text of the Declaration to accommodate the sensitivities of a number of Islamic countries and to reach a consensus. 7

Islamic countries conditioned their acceptance of the 1981 U.N. Declaration on the exclusions of these provisions. To retain their support, the Western delegations decided to ultimately “accept a compromise in order not to endanger the progress achieved after twenty years of protracted deliberations.” Article 8 was therefore added to reaffirm their commitment to freedom of religion or belief and the right to “change” or “adopt” a religion or belief as defined by the International Covenants.

Other potential threats to the established International Bill of Human Rights came from both religious and non-religious States. During the debate in the U.N. General Assembly prior to passage, Romania , Poland , Bulgaria , Czechoslovakia and the U.S.S.R. objected to what they considered a one-sided version slanted toward religion that did not take sufficient account of atheistic beliefs. Iraq entered a collective reservation on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference States, as to the applicability of any provision or wording that may be contrary to Islamic Law (Shari’a) or to any legislation or act based on Islamic Law. The long and difficult twenty year debate reflected how deeply-held religious and philosophical assertions impact global ideological divisions, and demonstrated the need to protect the rights already established through the U.N. International Bill of Human Rights. 8


Term 8.1.1: Restrict or Derogate

Describe how the International Bill of Human Rights can restrict or derogate provisions of the 1981 U.N. Declaration and why.

7. Article 18, Paragraph 1, of the ICCPR reads, “this right shall include freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief.”

8. Excerpted from Bahiyyih G. Tabzib, Freedom of Religion or Belief: Ensuring Effective International Legal Protection, Kluwer Law International, The Hague , The Netherlands (1996), p. 184.