United Nations Human Rights Council, 33rd Session (13th – 30th September 2016)
General Debate: Item 8
Kacem El Ghazzali, IHEU Representative
This statement is supported by The Raif Badawi Foundation, Arab Humanists and Adhoc organization .
Over 20 years ago, the Vienna declaration set out the need for states to take “all appropriate measures to counter intolerance and violence based on religion and belief […] recognizing that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion.”
Despite this, we continue to witness and report religious intolerance and systematic persecution against freethinkers and non-believers.
Jordan: The writer Nahed Hattar shot dead as he arrived for trial for insulting Islam.
Egypt: Following comments on Islamist Violence, the writer Sayyed Al Qemany has recently been prosecuted for ‘blasphemy’.
Morocco: The country that hosted the adoption of Rabat Plan for action, which recommends the repeal of blasphemy laws, joined recently the club of countries legalizing anti- blasphemy laws by introducing article 267 in the penal code which criminalizes any criticism of Islam in any form.
We can only promote the right to free expression and plurality of opinions by abolishing all blasphemy and apostasy laws. Such laws not only violate freedom of speech and belief, but legitimize hate speech, mob violence and persecution of minorities.
A state has no right to be concerned about what people believe or think, rather it should guarantee the right to think and express one’s opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation or censorship.
We object fundamentally to the notion that “blasphemy” should be treated as a criminal offense, and we call on all the states mentioned above through this council to comply with their human rights obligations, and abolish all blasphemy laws.