Expert seminar on the links between articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): Freedom of expression and advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence


(2-3 October 2008, Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XXI)

Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Expert Seminar (A/HRC/10/31/Add.3): E F S A C R

Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Expert

Press Release: World experts meet to discuss Freedom of Expression and Advocacy of Religious Hatred

The objective of the expert meeting was twofold: first, it sought to address the underlying human rights concerns behind “defamation of religions”, presenting an approach based on human rights law; second, it sought to ensure a sound legal interpretation of articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It explored legal limitations to freedom of expression and the mandatory prohibition of advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, as means to protect individuals and groups. Exchange of best practices and comparative legislative and judicial approaches were also among the objectives of the meeting.

The expert meeting addressed these questions within the framework of articles 19 and 20 of the ICCPR.

Article 19 of the ICCPR provides that:

“1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.”

Article 20 of the ICCPR provides that:

“1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”