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Sunday, March 28, 2010

UNHRC passes resolution limiting freedom of expression

From Al Arabiya:

The U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday narrowly passed a resolution condemning Islamaphobic behavior, including Switzerland's minaret building ban, despite some states' major reservations.

The resolution, which was criticized by the United States as "an instrument of division," "strongly condemns... the ban on the construction of minarets of mosques and other recent discriminatory measures."

Some 20 countries voted in favor of the resolution entitled "combating defamation of religions," 17 voted against and eight abstained.

The resolution also "expresses deep concern ... that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism."

It "regrets the laws or administrative measures specifically designed to control and monitor Muslim minorities, thereby stigmatizing them and legitimizing the discrimination they experience."

However, the European Union pointed out that the concept of defamation should not fall under the remit of human rights because it conflicted with the right to freedom of expression, while the United States said free speech could be hindered by the resolution.

"The European Union believes that reconciling the notion of defamation with discrimination is a problematic endeavor," French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei said on behalf of the bloc.

Eileen Donahoe, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. also slammed the resolution as an "ineffective way to address" concerns about discrimination.

"We cannot agree that prohibiting speech is the way to promote tolerance, and because we continue to see the 'defamation of religions' concept used to justify censorship, criminalization, and in some cases violent assaults and deaths of political, racial, and religious minorities around the world," she said.

"Contrary to the intentions of most member states, governments are likely to abuse the rights of individuals in the name of this resolution, and in the name of the Human Rights Council," added the U.S. envoy.