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Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

Introduction


Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief © UN Photo/Amanda Voisard
Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
© UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate holder has been invited to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles.

Historical background

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights appointed further to resolution 1986/20 a “Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance”. In 2000, the Commission on Human Rights decided to change the mandate title to “Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief”, which was subsequently endorsed by ECOSOC decision 2000/261 and welcomed by General Assembly resolution 55/97. On 23 March 2016, the the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 31/16, which, inter alia, extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years

Mandate

The Special Rapporteur has been mandated through Human Rights Council resolution 6/37 (see full text in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian):

- to promote the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief;

- to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles;

- to continue her/his efforts to examine incidents and governmental actions that are incompatible with the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and to recommend remedial measures as appropriate;

- to continue to apply a gender perspective, inter alia, through the identification of gender-specific abuses, in the reporting process, including in information collection and in recommendations.

Working methods

In the discharge of the mandate, the Special Rapporteur:

a) transmits communications* to States with regard to cases that represent infringements of or impediments to the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and belief.

b) undertakes fact-finding country visits.

c) submits annual reports to the Human Rights Council, and General Assembly, on the activities, trends and methods of work.

* For mandate specific guideline, please see Individual Complaints

Current mandate-holder

On 1 November 2016, Ahmed Shaheed assumed his mandate as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. He is Deputy Director of the Essex Human Rights Centre. He was the first Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the termination of the previous Commission on Human Rights mandate in 2002. A career diplomat, he has twice held the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives. He led Maldives' efforts to embrace international human rights standards between 2003 and 2011. Click here for mandate holder's full resume.

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Latest press releases:


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Archived news
(over 3 years old)

Highlights

Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality (8-10 June 2016)
More info...

Religion and Religious Freedom in International Diplomacy (22-23 September 2016)
More info...

Tackling Religious Intolerance and Discrimination at the Workplace.
More info...

Preventing Incitement to Atrocity Crimes: Policy Options for Action.
More info...

Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
More info...

Publications

"Rapporteur's Digest on freedom of religion or belief" is launched, which includes excerpts of the reports from 1986 to 2011 arranged by topics of the Special Rapporteur's framework for communications

Rapporteur's Digest on freedom of religion or beliefAvailable in:
English (PDF)


Workshop Summary Brief of Religion and Religious Freedom in International Diplomacy (PDF)

Conference Summary on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality (PDF - 7MB)
High Resolution Version (PDF - 42MB)

Special Rapporteur:

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed
(Maldives),
1 November 2016

Former Special Rapporteurs:

Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt
(Germany),
August 2010 - October 2016

Ms. Asma Jahangir
(Pakistan),
August 2004 - July 2010

Mr. Abdelfattah Amor
(Tunisia),
April 1993 - July 2004

Mr. Angelo d'Almeida Ribeiro
(Portugal),
March 1986 - March 1993


Mandate
Contact

Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Fax: (+41) 22 917 90 06

E-mail: freedomofreligion@ohchr.org or urgent-action@ohchr.org

Recent activities