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Framework for Communications - II 1


DISCRIMINATION

1. Discrimination on the basis of religion or belief/inter-religious discrimination/tolerance

ICCPR

Art. 2 (1): "Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as [...]
religion [...]."

Art. 5 (1): "Nothing in the present Covenant may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the present Covenant."

Art. 26: "All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as [...] religion [...]."

Art. 27: " In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language."

ICERD

Art. 5: "[...] States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights: [...] (d) Other civil rights, in particular: [...] (vii) The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion".

ICESCR

Art. 2 (2): "The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind such as [...] religion [...]."

CRC

Art. 30: "In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language."

1981 Declaration of the General Assembly

Art. 2 (1): "No one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief."

Art. 3: "Discrimination between human beings on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes an affront to human dignity and a disavowal of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and shall be condemned as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enunciated in detail in the International Covenants on Human Rights, and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between
nations."

Art. 4 (1): "All States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life."

Art. 4 (2): "All States shall make all efforts to enact or rescind legislation where necessary to prohibit any such discrimination, and to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs in this matter."

Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/40

4 (g): The Commission on Human Rights urges States, "To ensure that all public officials and civil servants, including members of law enforcement bodies, the military and educators, in the course of their official duties, respect different religions and beliefs and do not discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief, and that all necessary and appropriate education or training is provided;".

7: The Commission on Human Rights, "Expresses concern at the persistence of institutionalized social intolerance and discrimination practised in the name of religion or belief against many communities;".

8: The Commission on Human Rights urges States to step up their efforts to eliminate intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, notably by: "(a) Taking all necessary and appropriate action, in conformity with international standards of human rights, to combat hatred, intolerance and acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by intolerance based on religion or belief, with particular regard to religious minorities, and also to devote particular attention to practices that violate the human rights of women and discriminate against women, including in the exercise of their right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; (b) Promoting and encouraging, through education and other means, understanding, tolerance and respect in all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief; (c) Making all appropriate efforts to encourage those engaged in teaching to cultivate respect for all religions or beliefs, thereby promoting mutual understanding and tolerance;".

9: The Commission on Human Rights, "Recognizes that the exercise of tolerance and non-discrimination by all actors in society is necessary for the full realization of the aims of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and invites Governments, religious bodies and civil society to continue to undertake dialogue at all levels to promote greater tolerance, respect and understanding;".

10: The Commission on Human Rights, "Emphasizes the importance of a continued and strengthened dialogue among and within religions or beliefs, encompassed by the dialogue among civilizations, to promote greater tolerance, respect and mutual understanding;".

Human Rights Committee general comment 22

Para. 2: "The Committee therefore views with concern any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility on the part of a predominant religious community."

[Go back to the Framework for communications]

Excerpts of relevant paragraphs of 25 years mandate reporting practice (1986-2011)

E/CN.4/1987/35, paras. 104-108:

"104. A dialogue should also be established through the establishment of institutional mechanisms, such as commissions of representatives of Governments and of religious and other non-governmental organizations competent in this field, which could submit their suggestions as to ways and means of combating discrimination and intolerance in matters of religion or belief.

105. Victims of intolerance or of discrimination based on religion or belief should be able to avail themselves of effective legal remedies.

106. In order to promote ideals of tolerance and understanding in matters of religion and belief, instruction on international and national standards in respect of freedom of religion and belief should be included in school and university curricula and teaching staff must receive proper training in this regard. Similarly, education should be aimed at inculcating, from early childhood, a spirit of tolerance and respect for the spiritual values of others.

107. Non-governmental organizations in general, and groups representing specific religions or ideologies in particular, can play an active role in assuring respect for and promoting tolerance and freedom of religion and belief by initiating an inter-denominational dialogue at the national and international levels, in the form of meetings, conferences and seminars whose topics would be aimed at emphasizing the similarities among various religions and beliefs rather than their differences.

108. The media can also contribute, by disseminating information showing the importance of freedom of religion and belief as a fundamental human right, to educate society and public opinion in the direction of greater tolerance in matters of religion and belief."

A/55/280, paras. 110-117:

"110. From 1 to 5 May 2000, the Special Rapporteur participated in the Preparatory Committee for the Conference [World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance] and, in particular, submitted his study (A/CONF.189/PC.1/7).

111. In it, he explains that when the right to freedom of religion and the right to belong to an ethnic group or to a minority are infringed in the case of a single person or group of persons, the violation is not just a superimposition or ordinary addition of offences or discriminations. It is not just a question of multiple offences. The combination of the two offences creates a new, more serious, offence - an aggravated discrimination - which, while of varying intensity, is by its very nature a separate concept.

112. On the basis of the legal and factual elements of the issue of religious discrimination aggravated by racial discrimination, the Special Rapporteur draws the following preliminary conclusions:

(a) None of the international instruments studied contains any special provisions establishing a specific legal regime or special treatment covering acts of aggravated discrimination, particularly those that affect minorities;

(b) Nevertheless, a study of the various provisions leads to the conclusion that there is a body of sufficiently well-established rules and a set of principles shared by all the nations and all the States members of the international community, which suggests an openness to theoretical acceptance of a right to freedom from aggravated discrimination;

(c) Minorities are sometimes granted specific rights under the internal legislation and even under the Constitution. Yet, many forms of discrimination, particularly those relating to religion, are directly or indirectly enshrined in those Constitutions and affect ethnic groups in particular;

(d) A study of the facts has shown that the overlap between racial and religious discrimination is a common phenomenon that is especially grave and often has very tragic consequences;

(e) The instruments studied would appear to be out of phase with reality. At any rate, they do not appear to accept the full consequences of their own recognition of the links between race and religion.

113. The Special Rapporteur therefore recommends:

A. Strengthening protection against aggravated discrimination

114. International protection. It seems clear that legislative provisions, whatever their nature or origin, should anticipate and take into account the possibility of aggravated discrimination. The first step in strengthening international protection is to consolidate existing means and mechanisms. The international community's work could be reinforced by adopting the following measures:

(a) Existing instruments should anticipate the possibility of aggravated discrimination. It might be useful to begin working within the framework of existing mechanisms towards, for example, the adoption of a resolution dealing specifically with aggravated discrimination;

(b) The Conference against discrimination could, within the context of its declaration and programme of action, devote some thought to aggravated discrimination;

(c) Protection against aggravated discrimination in the context of existing conventions and other instruments could be strengthened through review and follow-up procedures and through deadlines for consideration.

115. Internal protection. This will mean improving legal protection, in particular under criminal legislation:

(a) Each State should provide judicial guarantees to ensure that freedom of religion or belief and membership of an ethnic and religious group are protected in a concrete manner by explicit provisions.

It would be desirable for some States to enact general legislation based on international standards;

(b) States must make efforts to enact legislation or to modify existing legislation, as appropriate, in order to prohibit all discrimination based on identification of individuals with multiple groups. Most importantly, positive criminal legislation should be enacted, not only imposing severe penalties on single forms of discrimination, but above all defining a new offence, that of aggravated racial and religious discrimination, which should carry a specific penalty, and naturally one that is heavier than that imposed for single forms of discrimination, whether religious or racial;

(c) Establishment of an independent equal opportunity authority to monitor racial and religious discrimination.

B. Prevention of aggravated discrimination

116. Education and training. States need to ensure that, whatever the ethnic and religious make-up of the society, their education system is capable of observing the following principles, which form the basis of a policy striking at the roots of aggravated discrimination: encouragement through education and teaching; prohibition against segregating classes according to membership of ethnic and religious groups; condemnation of racism in schools; appropriate prevention programmes; production of appropriate textbooks.

117. States could also use the following means: information and communication; dialogue between and within religious groups; town planning policies; democracy and development."

A/56/253, paras. 122-130:

"Interreligious dialogue

122. The Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 2001/42, invited Governments, religious bodies and civil society, during the year marking the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the 1981 Declaration, to undertake dialogue at all levels to promote greater tolerance, respect and understanding of freedom of religion and belief.

123. Indeed, interreligious dialogue constitutes one of the pillars of prevention in the area of religion or belief. At its meeting in Chicago in 1993, the Parliament of the World's Religions attempted to promote the cause of true dialogue among religions. It is of primary importance that encounters with and among religions should create a space for mutual understanding in order to promote or strengthen full and sincere acceptance of freedom of religion or belief as defined and guaranteed by international human rights standards. In that way, interreligious dialogue should enable peaceful resolution and prevention of conflicts and violations worldwide.

124. The Special Rapporteur wishes to review and emphasize the numerous initiatives that recognize the essential value of interreligious dialogue and seek to promote it.

125. As the Commission on Human Rights noted in its resolution 2001/42, the Millennium Declaration adopted by the General Assembly and Assembly resolution 55/23 of 13 November 2000 on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations recognize the valuable contribution that dialogue among civilizations can make to an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind. Clearly, interreligious dialogue is fully in line with the Millennium Declaration and the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.

126. At the Millennium World Peace Summit, which was held in New York in August 2000, over 1,000 officials of various religions or faiths gathered together for the first time ever and made a commitment to work together to guarantee peace on earth. They emphasized their firm intention to use their moral authority to contribute to reconciliation and acceptance of diversity. Finally, they signed a commitment to promote world peace which recognized that all religious traditions teach that people should treat their neighbours as they would be treated themselves, whatever their differences might be in race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, economic level, age and gender.

127. The Year of Dialogue among Civilizations also illustrates the contribution of UNESCO to interreligious dialogue. UNESCO has undertaken various activities in this field. In 1994, a Declaration on the Contribution of Religion to the Culture of Peace was adopted under its auspices and in 1995, the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance was adopted. UNESCO has launched programmes on intercultural and interreligious dialogue, basing its approach on a new dimension of the concept of dialogue. To the relevant traditional but reductionist approach to dialogue through mutual knowledge has been added the concept of interaction. In effect, mutual knowledge can reinforce identities, while interaction highlights proximity and pluralism. The Malta Declaration of 1997 suggested, inter alia, that collaboration should be promoted between academics and individuals involved in the interreligious dialogue on the ground with a view to combining reflection and action in order to extend the dialogue to families, communities and all levels of society, thus giving the dialogue a wider impact. UNESCO has also established institutes and chairs on mutual knowledge among religions, spiritual traditions and their specific cultures. The meeting held in Malta under UNESCO auspices in 1997 also recommended to that agency, States and the communities concerned that they should promote studies on the image and perception of the other in religious texts; promote research on the ways in which communities have used religious texts to justify conflicts; and review the textbooks used in schools, including religious schools, in order to eliminate any religious stereotyping. Finally, the Director-General of UNESCO established the International Committee for Interreligious Dialogue to advise on the development and implementation of activities to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue. The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief was requested to make a contribution as a member of the Committee. In that capacity, he participated in the International Congress on Interreligious Dialogue and the Culture of Peace at Tashkent in September 2000.

128. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has also made a contribution to the promotion of interreligious dialogue. For example, in November 1998, the Office of the High Commissioner held a seminar on "Enriching the Universality of Human Rights: Islamic perspectives on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". The High Commissioner participated in the Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in August 1998, among others, and has sent messages, in particular to the Nuremburg conference in September 1999 on "Human rights: Promoted by religion, threatened by religion". She also signed the Geneva Spiritual Appeal of 24 October 1999 at an inter-faith religious service attended by representatives of various religions and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Health Organization. On 15 June 2001, a special publication entitled Sacred rights: Faith Leaders on Tolerance and Respect was issued, as a result of the Millennium World Peace Summit, as part of the preparations for the Durban conference. In this context, the High Commissioner called on religious leaders to establish an "annual interreligious and international day of celebration of diversity to put emphasis on the enriching character of human diversity." Finally, it should be noted that the Durban and Madrid conferences, in accordance with the wishes of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in particular, are taking place within the framework of the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, and therefore the dialogue among religions.

129. The Special Rapporteur also wishes to recall the relevance of the recommendations made at the Seminar on the encouragement of understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief organized in December 1984 by what was then known as the United Nations Centre for Human Rights:

"The seminar recommended that: "... "(h) Religious bodies and groups at every level have a role to play in the promotion and protection of religious freedoms or beliefs. They should foster the spirit of tolerance within their ranks and between religions or beliefs. Interfaith dialogue based on the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief should be pursued at all levels. The seminar also recommends that the text of the Declaration be disseminated to their members as a basis for instruction and that religious bodies consider recommending a common day of prayer or of dedication to the aims set out in the Declaration. Other groups are similarly recommended to consider a day of dedication to the aims of the Declaration."

130. In addition to his contribution to the UNESCO Committee and to the various events mentioned above (conferences, seminars, etc.), the Special Rapporteur has always been concerned with encouraging interreligious dialogue. For example, he has made specific recommendations in his reports on in situ visits, whether so-called traditional missions or visits to the major communities of religion or belief. In that regard, it should be specified that this "new" category of visits, for instance the visit to the Vatican in 1999, has the particular purpose of examining activities undertaken in the area of interreligious dialogue and offering a pathway for all towards the objectives, methods and mechanisms of interreligious dialogue. The Special Rapporteur has also included the question of interreligious dialogue into his general reports and into the framework of the Madrid international consultative conference on school education in relation to freedom of religion or belief, tolerance and non-discrimination (see above)."

E/CN.4/2006/5, paras. 19 and 62:

"19. The Special Rapporteur observed that one of the main challenges to human societies lies in organizing themselves along political lines without infringing on the beliefs or religious freedom of individuals and communities or focusing too heavily on religious considerations at the expense of other rights. There is a need to create better harmony between religious communities to enable them to live side by side and in mutual respect. Efforts to promote inter-religious dialogue at all levels should not only be praised, but also encouraged and actively supported by Governments. At the same time, such harmony can only be forged, and flourish, if Governments remain committed to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief in a neutral and balanced manner. [...]

62. While she notes that religious leaders regularly organize high-level meetings at the international level to promote inter-religious dialogue, she is concerned that Governments, which are primarily responsible for protecting people against violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief, rarely organize intergovernmental events to discuss the rise of religious intolerance, in particular at the regional level. The Special Rapporteur encourages more intergovernmental dialogue on the issues relating to her mandate, so as to increase the involvement of the relevant policymakers."

A/HRC/10/8, paras 29-62:

"III. DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RELIGION OR BELIEF AND ITS IMPACT ON THE ENJOYMENT OF ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

29. In the implementation of her mandate, the Special Rapporteur has always strived to adopt a holistic approach and to examine all issues related to freedom of religion or belief in a non-selective manner. In doing so, she and her predecessors came across a great variety of issues of concern, including cases of discrimination based on religion or belief5 pertaining to civil and political rights, as well as to economic, social and cultural rights. In this section, the Special Rapporteur provides a preliminary analysis on discrimination based on religion or belief and its impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. While focusing on economic, social and cultural rights in the present report, the Special Rapporteur recalls that the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action proclaimed that all human rights are universal, indivisible, and interdependent and interrelated. Therefore, the distinction made in this section between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other, should merely be seen as reflecting the terminology used by the two international covenants.

A. Legal framework at the international level

30. The principle of non-discrimination is generally perceived as one of the most important in the field of human rights; it is overarching and therefore applies to all human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief. It is crucial to prevent discrimination with regard to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, since minorities and vulnerable groups are particularly affected when States do not abide by their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.

31. The enjoyment of rights and freedoms on an equal footing, however, does not mean identical treatment in every instance. Indeed, discrimination not only occurs when individuals or groups in the same situation are treated differently, but may also occur when individuals or groups are treated in the same way although their situation is different. The principle of non-discrimination thus prohibits both unjustified distinctions when similar situations are treated differently and unjustified comparisons when different situations are treated in the same manner.

32. The Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief extensively addresses the principle of non-discrimination in its articles 2, 3 and 4. In particular, article 2 (1) of the Declaration states that “[n]o one shall be subject to discrimination by any State, institution, group of persons, or person on the grounds of religion or other belief”. Furthermore, article 2 (2) provides the following definition for the purposes of the Declaration: “‘intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief’ means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis”. Article 4 provides that “[a]ll States shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the recognition, exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life” and that they “shall make all efforts to enact or rescind legislation where necessary to prohibit any such discrimination, and to take all appropriate measures to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs in this matter”.

33. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights addresses the principle of non-discrimination in its article 2 (2), which includes a reference to religion, as follows: “[t]he States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.

34. In its general comment No. 22 (1993), the Human Rights Committee specifically referred to economic, social and cultural rights in relation to the prohibition of coercion. In paragraph 5, it stated that policies or practices having the same intention or effect, such as those restricting access to education, medical care or employment, are similarly inconsistent with article 18 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This approach was recently reinforced by the General Assembly in its resolution 63/181 on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief, in which it urged States to step up their efforts to ensure that no one is discriminated against on the basis of his or her religion or belief when accessing, inter alia, education, medical care, employment, humanitarian assistance or social benefits.

35. On the basis of articles 2 and 4 of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, three issues need to be emphasized. First, the principle of non-discrimination, as enshrined in the Declaration, applies to States as much as to non-State actors as potential perpetrators. States have therefore the duty to refrain from discriminating individuals or groups of individuals because of their religion and belief and must also take necessary measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination between non-State actors. Incidents among non-State actors tend to be less clear-cut than discrimination perpetrated by States. For instance, it may be difficult to determine whether faith-based associations are allowed to disregard employment applications from believers belonging to a different community or if they are compelled to consider all applicants, regardless of their religious affiliation. Another example is when a religious or belief community wishes to exclude a certain community from using its premises if these are usually available for rent. In order to determine whether these actions amount to discrimination or not, a case-by-case analysis is necessary.

36. Second, it follows from the definition provided by article 2 (2) that “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief having as its purpose or as its effect nullification or impairment of the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis” constitutes discrimination. Hence, not all forms of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference amount to discrimination; some may in fact be used in the context of special temporary measures or affirmative action, aiming at the elimination of conditions which cause or help to perpetuate discrimination, including on grounds of religion or belief. According to the Human Rights Committee, “in a State where the general conditions of a certain part of the population prevent or impair their enjoyment of human rights, the State should take specific action to correct those conditions. Such action may involve granting for a time, to the part of the population concerned, certain preferential treatment in specific matters as compared with the rest of the population. However, as long as such action is needed to correct discrimination in fact, it is a case of legitimate differentiation under the Covenant”. The Special Rapporteur stresses that affirmative actions may be essential to empower communities that suffered on account of historic discriminatory practices. At the same time, she underlines that the effectiveness of affirmative action should be measured through various identifiable means and
should be monitored for its progress.

37. Third, by referring to the “purpose” or “effect” of any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief, article 2 (2) of the Declaration provides protection against formal (de jure) and actual (de facto) discrimination. Both concepts are obviously closely linked. While de jure discrimination refers to discrimination enshrined in laws, de facto discrimination pertains to the effects of laws, policies or practices. It entails that de jure discrimination should be eradicated immediately, as this can be done by amending or repealing the discriminatory legislation. When faced with de facto discrimination, States should immediately adopt measures that are likely to lead to its elimination as soon as possible.

38. In addition to the above, reference should also be made to the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination based on religion or belief. A law, policy or practice creates direct discrimination when a difference in treatment, which cannot be justified objectively, is expressly based on a person’s religion or belief. Indirect discrimination stems from a law, policy or practice that does not appear at first sight to involve inequalities but which inevitably leads to inequalities when implemented. Since indirect discrimination may also exist without intention from the perpetrator, it may be more difficult to detect and prove than direct discrimination. However, once indirect discrimination has been identified, States should adopt appropriate measures in order to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

39. Even in cases where there is no intention on the part of the State to discriminate against members of a certain religious or belief community, or where there is no de jure discrimination in national legislation, there may yet exist religious differentials in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Access to basic services like education and health care or access to employment may therefore differ when comparing various religious communities or, more generally, socio-economic groups of individuals that may be closely linked to certain religious or belief communities. Where there is discrimination, be it de jure or de facto and direct or indirect, States should address existing or emerging imbalances in line with article 4 of the Declaration on the Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination. Consequently, in-depth studies and analyses on the socio-economic situation of particular religious communities are vital for States to take adequate measures."

A/HRC/13/40

"33. The Special Rapporteur would also like to provide an overview of some general patterns and issues of concern related to her mandate. In this context, she wishes to distinguish between: (a) discrimination and violence “on the grounds of religion or belief”, i.e., based on the religious affiliation of the victim; and (b) discrimination and violence “in the name of religion or belief”, i.e., based on or arrogated to religious tenets of the perpetrator.

A. Discrimination and violence on the grounds of religion or belief

34. The most prominent example of a general, worrying pattern all over the world is the discrimination and violence suffered by members of religious minorities. Many religious minorities are in a vulnerable situation, which is further aggravated when States specifically target them by registering their members’ names and scrutinizing these individuals. Worse still are laws that openly discriminate against individuals on the basis of religion or belief or the perceived lack of religious fervour. Indeed, dissenting or dispassionate believers are being marginalized and face interreligious or intra-religious problems. Admission to schools and employment in Government and private enterprises are denied to people because of their religious or belief affiliations. Many violent acts or threats against members of religious minorities are also perpetrated by non-State actors, all too often with impunity.

35. Another worrying general pattern is the targeting of places of worship and other religious buildings or properties. The Special Rapporteur is seriously concerned about frequent attacks on places of worship and the desecration of cemeteries. Such attacks violate the rights of not only a single believer, but also the group of individuals forming the community attached to the place in question. In this regard, the General Assembly has adopted resolution 55/254 on protection of religious sites, calling upon all States to exert their utmost efforts to ensure that religious sites are fully respected and protected.

36. National policies, legislation and practices which are designed to combat terrorism have had and continue to have adverse effects on the enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief worldwide. The Special Rapporteur notes with concern the worsening situation of minority communities in the wake of the events of 11 September 2001 and the estrangement of communities who earlier lived together without suspicion. While States are obliged to take effective measures to counter terrorism, the Special Rapporteur would like to underline that States must also ensure that counter-terrorism measures comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.

37. There are also further issues of concern in relation to her mandate, which seem to be more prevalent in particular regions or countries. For example, some domestic registration procedures for religious communities are applied in a discriminatory manner by the authorities, often curbing the freedom of religion or belief of minority communities such as new religious movements or indigenous peoples. In addition, she is concerned about undue State interference in religious teaching and dissemination of related publications, for example when the authorities censor, monitor and write sermons or persecute religious leaders. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur has noticed a number of restrictions imposed on different forms of religious expression, for example, on the wearing of distinctive clothing or head coverings. At the same time, she is concerned about reports of women who are forced to wear religious dress in public in certain countries.

38. A number of societies are facing obstacles to ending all forms of discrimination on religious grounds and creating informed public opinion that can effectively challenge religious bigotry. The Special Rapporteur has noticed with regret that, as far as her mandate is concerned, denunciation of human rights abuses is often selective; the religion of the victim and of the perpetrator, rather than the act itself, seems to be a determining factor as to who feels obliged to publicly condemn the incident. Where the victim belongs to one religion, but the perpetrator to another, public outrage from the victims’ community unfortunately seems to be greater than if the perpetrator and the victim had the same religion or belief. However, in addition to interreligious conflicts, intra-religious violence also warrants close monitoring and condemnation. All perpetrators, regardless of their or the victims’ religious affiliation, should be brought to justice.

39. Similarly, the Special Rapporteur has noticed that, while criticism of major religions attracts a lot of attention at the national, regional and international levels, more attention should be focused on addressing the numerous cases of incitement to violence against smaller religions. Article 20, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights obliges States to prohibit by law any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. However, the right to freedom of religion or belief does not include the right to have a religion or belief that is free from criticism or ridicule. [See A/HRC/2/3, para. 36.]  The Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize the important role of an independent judiciary, which needs to adjudicate in each particular case according to its own circumstances and taking into account the specific context. There also have been cases of mob violence as a reaction to expressions of perceived criticism of religions and religious personalities. In this context, several special rapporteurs urged all actors to refrain from any form of violence and avoid fuelling hatred. In addition, States should promote the interrelated and indivisible nature of human rights and freedoms and advocate the use of legal remedies and the pursuance of a peaceful dialogue on matters which go to the heart of all multicultural societies. [See A/HRC/6/5, paras. 38-39].

40. Religious education is another contentious issue which has sparked controversy in many societies. A number of countries have religious instruction in public schools in a particular religion, while other countries provide for school classes about the history of different religions. From a human rights perspective, the latter is less problematic provided that classes on the history of religions are given in a neutral and objective way. However, public education which includes instruction in a particular religion or belief is consistent with article 18, paragraph 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights only if provision is made for non-discriminatory exemptions or alternatives that would accommodate the wishes of parents and legal guardians. In some countries, religious instruction is mandatory, a situation which poses the problem of how to provide the same level of teaching to children belonging to religious minority groups. They are, in some instances, given no option but to receive instruction in the religion of the majority community. Only in a few cases are schools able to provide religious instruction to students of all the different religious or belief communities. During her interaction with Governments and school authorities, the Special Rapporteur has been made aware of the fact that some parents, who demanded that religious instruction be given in schools, often queried the contents of such religious instruction. This has invariably placed school authorities in a difficult situation, particularly where a religious community is itself divided and has no official spokesperson. The Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools [Prepared by the Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), available at the address http://www.osce.org/publications/odihr/2007/11/28314_993_en.pdf.] provide practical guidance for preparing curricula for teaching about religions and beliefs, as well as preferred procedures for ensuring fairness in the development of such curricula.

B. Discrimination and violence in the name of religion or belief

41. Another worrying pattern is discrimination and violence in the name of religion or belief. As emphasized in the preamble of the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, it is essential to promote understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of religion and belief and to ensure that the use of religion or belief for ends inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations, other relevant instruments of the United Nations and the purposes and principles of the 1981 Declaration is inadmissible.

42. Discrimination and violence in the name of religion or belief is at the heart of many conflicts which are — or are at least perceived to be — based on religious issues, often intertwined with particular ethnic, national, political or historical backgrounds. Since the creation of the mandate in 1986, various instances of discrimination and violence in the name of religion or belief have come to light both in thematic reports and during country visits or in the exchange of communications with States. The following examples from the exercise of mandate are designed to illustrate some forms of militant extremism and religious polarization, as well as the negative consequences that these phenomena may ultimately have for the enjoyment of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.

43. In his annual report submitted to the Commission on Human Rights in 1993, the first mandate holder, Angelo Vidal d’Almeida Ribeiro, noted “how difficult it is to curb or eradicate the propagation of extremist and fanatical opinions and overcome the distrust opposing members of certain denominations. Although the phenomena of religious discrimination and intolerance are often caused by a variety of economic, social, political or cultural factors deriving from complex historical processes, they are frequently the result of sectarian or dogmatic intransigence. In view of their adverse effect on the stability of international relations, the Special Rapporteur is of the opinion that States should be vigilant in this regard and make determined efforts to combat religious discrimination and intolerance at all levels”. [E/CN.4/1993/62, para. 78.]

44. The second mandate holder, Abdelfattah Amor, emphasized that the nature of religious extremism is such as to jeopardize the right of individuals and of peoples to peace and to prejudice human rights as a whole. [E/CN.4/1995/91, p. 148.]  He noted that religious extremism acts as a cancer in a religious group of any denomination and that it affects the members of that religious group just as much as those of other religious groups. [E/CN.4/1996/95, para. 45.] He added that extremism in any religion, wherever it appears, openly or latently, covertly or overtly, and potentially or explicitly violent, merits a hard look at the causes — including economic and social causes — and at its immediate and longer-term effects. [E/CN.4/1997/91, para. 92.] Additional aspects of extremism include such phenomena as collective suicides by followers of certain groups, terrorist acts by new religious movements and the impact of suicide attacks with an alleged religious motivation. [See, for example, E/CN.4/1998/6, para. 151; A/52/477, para. 58; and E/CN.4/2003/66, paras. 93-104.]

45. Recent examples of discrimination and violence in the name of religion or belief can be found in the Special Rapporteur’s two latest reports on communications. [A/HRC/13/40/Add.1 and A/HRC/10/8/Add.1.] One of the examples given in those reports, which are obviously not exhaustive, refers to riots and attacks on places of worship perpetrated by members of a group who sought to impose their interpretation of religious law on all other individuals in that region. Another case involved an alleged instance of blasphemy where certain political and religious groups threatened to seal off a whole city and attack a religious minority unless the police arrested five members of this religious minority. In another incident, two members of a religious minority were killed after the perpetrator had requested to see the victims’ identity cards, which state the religious affiliation of the bearer. Just before holding national elections in one country, a personal status law for one religious community was passed, which further entrenched discrimination and violence against women, girls and members of religious minorities. In a particular province of another country, a new criminal code was adopted for one religious community, effectively legalizing marital rape. Further examples of sectarian violence, religious persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion are mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s recent mission reports. [See, for example, A/HRC/7/10/Add.3; A/HRC/10/8/Add.2; A/HRC/10/8/Add.3; and A/HRC/13/40/Add.3.]

46. In many cases, persons in a vulnerable situation, including children, women and converts, are targeted by discrimination or violence in the name of religion or belief. Children have been indoctrinated with religious intolerance and, unfortunately, continue to be used by certain non-State actors to perpetrate violence on others or themselves in the name of religion. Women also remain a constant target of religious intolerance. Their rights are violated in the name of religion or belief in the most self-righteous manner. Laws continue to discriminate against women particularly, for example in the field of personal law, on the insistence that only those laws conform to the religious beliefs of the woman’s religious community.

47. Non-State actors, and sometimes even State authorities, continue to threaten or discriminate against individuals who have changed their religion. This problem remains an alarming one in a number of countries, despite the fact that article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly provides that freedom of thought, conscience and religion includes freedom to change religion or belief. Religious leaders and opinion makers should become aware that not only is conversion to their own religion or belief protected, but the decision to replace one’s current religion or belief with a different one is too. The possibility of changing, choosing, replacing and retaining one’s religion or belief is fundamental to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. No person ought to face intolerance, discrimination or persecution because of his or her decision to change religion or belief or not to have one. In addition, obliging individuals to disclose their religion or belief in official documents might increase their risk of being persecuted. The Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize that theistic, non-theistic and atheistic believers and those who do not profess any religion or belief are equally protected. All of them have important roles to play in building pluralistic societies for the twenty-first century."

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