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Press releases Human Rights Council
11 March 2014
11 March 2014
The Human Rights Council in its midday meeting started a clustered interactive dialogue with Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief and Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
Mr. Bielefeldt said that manifestations of collective hatred did not “erupt” like a volcano, but were often caused by a peculiar combination of fear and contempt. Manifestations were aggravated by political factors such as endemic corruption, harnessing of religion for the purposes of national identity politics and the marginalization of religious minorities. Policies to counter such hatred must invest in trust-building based on universal respect for human dignity.
Mr. Emmerson presented his report on the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. In 2013 no civilian casualties caused by armed drones were recorded in Pakistan, but a three-fold increase was registered in Afghanistan. The situation in Yemen was also a cause for concern, where the frequency of armed drone strikes had intensified. There was need to find international consensus on the core applicable legal principles, and to urgently debate eight key legal questions contained in the report.
Sierra Leone, Jordan, Burkina Faso and Chile spoke as concerned countries.
During the clustered interactive dialogue, delegations said there was a dire need for the international community to confront the phenomena of racial and cultural intolerance and incitement to violence. The Rabat Plan of Action was useful in balancing the right to freedom of expression and incitement to hatred or violence, and speakers asked how it could be effectively implemented. Regarding the use of armed drones, speakers said that States should respect their international obligations and refrain from perpetuating unlawful killings inside or outside of their territory, stressing that the issue of accountability for civilian casualties must be addressed.
Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union and Yemen, on behalf of the Arab Group, spoke in the clustered interactive dialogue.
The Human Rights Council will resume the clustered interactive dialogue on the freedom of religion and on human rights and counter-terrorism at 9 a.m. tomorrow, 12 March. Its next meeting will be a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of civil society.
Statement by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
HEINER BIELEFELDT, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said manifestations of collective hatred poisoned the relationship between communities, threatened individuals and groups and were a source of innumerable human rights violations perpetrated by State agencies and/or non-State actors. The manifestations did not “erupt” like a volcano, but they were caused by human beings, whose actions or omissions could set in motion a seemingly unstoppable negative dynamic in societies. Hate-filled sentiments were often caused by a peculiar combination of fear and contempt which could trigger a vicious circle of mistrust, narrow-mindedness, collective hysteria, contempt-filled rumours and fear of imaginary conspiracies. Aggravating political factors that further increased the likelihood of manifestations of collective religious hatred included, among others, endemic corruption, an authoritarian political atmosphere stifling free and frank public debate, harnessing of religion for the purposes of national identity politics and the marginalization of religious minorities. Policies to counter hatred must invest in trust-building based on universal respect for human dignity, both through public institutions and communication.
Reporting on his country visits to Sierra Leone, Jordan, and Cyprus, the Special Rapporteur gave examples of positive practice in promoting inter-faith dialogue and religious pluralism. The prevention of incidents motivated by hatred had attracted increased attention in the international community. The High Commissioner conducted a series of regional expert workshops which culminated in the Rabat Plan of Action, which emphasised the need to uphold a climate of free communication and public discourse based on freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and other freedoms. States and other stakeholders should develop holistic policies which include non-restrictive and non-prohibitive activities. The Rabat Plan of Action stressed the need for policies which promoted a creative and productive use of freedom of expression in order to prevent and respond to incidents of incitement to hatred. Civil society activities which visibly and audibly rejected advocacy of religious hatred that incited discrimination, hostility or violence could have a practical effect in discouraging such advocacy, while at the same time showing solidarity with their targets.
Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, presented the findings of his report on the use of armed drones. The inquiry aimed to evaluate claims that the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations had resulted in disproportionate levels of civilian casualties. The issue was clearly important to the international community and the growing calls for scrutiny were underlined by the adoption of the General Assembly Resolution 68/178 which emphasized the need to ensure that drones were used within the framework of international law. The Special Rapporteur said his report set out the pattern of civilian casualties arising from the use of armed drones. In 2013, for the first time, there were no civilian casualties in Pakistan, but a three-fold increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan had been recorded compared to the previous year. The situation in Yemen was also a cause for concern, as the frequency of armed drone strikes there had intensified.
Two main pillars of the report related to accountability and transparency and the need to promote an international consensus on the core applicable legal principles. Mr. Emmerson had examined evidence relating to 37 individual drone strikes in various parts of the world in which it was alleged that civilians had been killed or injured. The number or proportion of civilians reportedly harmed in the incidents, in the absence of any official public explanation from the State responsible, raised a reasonable suspicion that the action taken might have been unlawful. In each case the evidence was sufficient to cross the threshold set in the interim report as imposing duty on the relevant States to provide a public explanation of the circumstances and the justification for the use of deadly force. In calling for an explanation the Special Rapporteur said that it was not a political demand and added that States responsible for the strikes were under a present and continuing legal obligation to disclose the results of their own fact-finding inquiries. The report contained eight key legal questions which needed to be urgently debated and solved. It was important now that consensus be achieved internationally. The Special Rapporteur also updated the Council on his visits to Burkina Faso and Chile.
Sierra Leone, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief for his visit and his excellent report and reiterated its commitment to freedom of religion or belief, instituted in various provisions of its 1991 constitution. Sierra Leone recalled the Special Rapporteur’s note that it had worked hard to achieve a model of religious freedom and foster an “admirable culture of inter-religious and intra-religious openheartedness”. It drew particular attention to the Special Rapporteur’s comments on the role of religion in rebuilding Sierra Leonean society following the war, when religious communities played a crucial role in promoting peace and tolerance. The delegation expressed commitment to ensuring that religious freedom, tolerance and respect remained central to society and to promoting peace and preventing social divide, fragmentation or rise of religious extremism.
Jordan, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief for his report and remarks. There had been many royal decisions guaranteeing respect for religious belief and the right to practice one’s religion in Jordan. Furthermore, Jordan had made interreligious dialogue and respect among religions one of its fundamental principles; its legislation guaranteed non-discrimination, equality, and acceptance of others. King Abdullah took the initiative to propose an interreligious week to the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010, stressing the importance of mutual understanding between religions. Legislation established the acceptance of new non-Muslim religions and freedom of belief as long as they were not in contradiction with public order. The number of measures was spreading the culture of tolerance and dialogue among religions; the acceptance of others was encouraged by organizing conferences or establishing cultural centres to promote tolerance and co-existence.
Burkina Faso, speaking as a concerned country, said it placed great importance on international instruments in the context of counter-terrorism. It took note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and welcomed its quality. Despite the fact that Burkina Faso had fortunately been spared from the scourge of terrorism, the Government had implemented legislation, in particular, on terrorism financing and through the ratification of the majority of the international instruments in this field. The report of the Special Rapporteur noted a number of the obstacles faced by Burkina Faso and the need for the international community to continue to provide the necessary support. The delegation therefore welcomed the recommendations made by the mandate holder and reiterated the Government’s intention to engage with international fora and other States in order to respond effectively. Burkina Faso expressed recognition for the Special Rapporteur’s work towards sparing innocent victims of terrorism.
Chile, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its commitment to the international system of human rights and said for that reason it maintained open-ended invitations to mandate holders. The report of the Special Rapporteur on his visit to Chile addressed counter-terrorism legislation and focused on the Mapuche people. Chile clarified that neither social movements nor demonstrations were criminalised, as indicated in the report. However, the exercise of social movements or demonstrations could not undermine other rights and had to take place within the principles of security and democratic public order. Anti-terrorism legislation was not arbitrarily applied or with the aim to discriminate against members of the Mapuche community, but on acts of extreme violence which sought to cause terror or alter public tranquillity. Chile stressed that anti-terrorist legislation was applied only under exceptional circumstances and public attorneys followed the principles of legality and objectivity. Also that investigations in the context of crimes of terrorism were conducted within the relevant norms, including judicial independence.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that the issue of hate speech must be tackled effectively and that the Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provided clear guidance on what forms of hate speech must be prohibited by law. The Rabat Plan of Action was useful in balancing freedom of expression and incitement to hatred or violence. The issue of accountability for civilian casualties in the use of armed drones must be addressed.
European Union said that intolerance and incitement to violence were complex issues that required a multi-layered approach. It asked about the positive examples of addressing the root causes of religious hatred and how the Rabat Plan of Action could be effectively implemented. Concerning the use of armed drones, the European Union said that it expected States to respect their international obligations and to refrain from perpetuating unlawful killings inside or outside of their territory.
Yemen, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said there was dire need for the international community to confront the phenomena of racial and cultural intolerance. The dialogue between religions would bridge the gap and close the door to extremists. Mutual respect of each other must be the basis for freedom of expression so that attacks on a religion would not be allowed. The interdependence prevailing in the United Nations and the cooperation between countries were essential in addressing the use of armed drones.
For use of the information media; not an official record