The U.N. Human Rights Council held informal consultations on the EU’s resolution on freedom of religion and belief, to be voted on next week. The room was packed, with several states taking the floor, including Egypt, Pakistan, Mexico, Bangladesh, China, USA, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
· China on several occasions requested the removal of the term “freedom of thought and conscience,” saying they felt it does not directly relate to freedom of religion. Also, the representative from China, when noting the reference to the World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination etc., in PP5, referred to the conference as, “The World Conference on Racism, and Racial blah-blah-blah.” (The full official title is “World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.”)
· Egypt took great offense to China’s blah-blah-ing of discrimination, explaining that the reference to the 2001 Durban declaration was important to the U.N.’s African Group, which Egypt leads.
· The USA requested the deletion of any reference to the World Conference on Racism.
· Egypt and Pakistan strongly objected to the phrasing in PP6, which asserts formal or legal distinction of different religions at the national level constitutes discrimination. Egypt explained that just because a state has a national religion does not mean the other religions are discriminated against.
· The USA and the UK both strongly supported the para as is.
· South Africa said it would be introducing language, both in the preamble and body of the resolution, that would address the role of the media with regards to incitement of hatred and religious intolerance, which is part of the Islamic agenda to stifle criticism of Islamic practices.
· Russia and China proposed amendments that would allow governments to restrict the freedoms of religion and expression when they infringe on public safety and order.
· Not all the countries were able to offer their amendments to the resolution because of time constraints. The resolution must be submitted by tomorrow, but the EU said it would do its best to reflect the viewpoints expressed today.