Geneva, Feb. 20, 2006 – Three human rights groups today urged the President of the General Assembly and the United Nations to reject last-minute attempts to incorporate Islamic religious precepts into the charter of the world body’s new human rights council. The three non-governmental organizations — UN Watch in Switzerland, Freedom House in the U.S., and the Transnational Radical Party headquartered in Italy — called on Jan Eliasson to reject amendments submitted by the 56-nation Islamic bloc that would insert a special reference to “actions against religions, prophets and beliefs.”
Delegates have been meeting for months to negotiate an overhaul of the UN’s leading human rights body, with a final consensus document from Eliasson expected this week. Amid violent protests over the publication in Europe of newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, the latest demand by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has created a crisis in the talks.
The mandate of the Human Rights Council, once established, will be to promote human rights, including vital ones of freedoms of expression, the press, religion and belief. By contrast, the principal effect of the OIC proposal would be an increase in censorship of those cartoons, books, articles, works of art, or other manifestations of thought that are considered offensive to any religion, and the erosion of the freedom to dissent from a religion.
One of the primary results of the OIC proposal would be to establish a justification for the violence and threats of violence that have occurred in recent days over the Danish cartoon depictions of Mohammed. In the past, artists, writers, editors and dissidents have also been threatened with death for depicting religions and religious figures in a light deemed unacceptable by certain groups. The OIC proposal seeks a UN and international imprimatur to whitewash this violence as merely acts of “excessive self-defense” against purportedly illegitimate provocations. The result of this proposal would be to increase threats and violence against all those who hold and express contrary religious views.
Transnational Radical Party