Tuesday, 11 December 2012

U.N. rights body gives posts to "unfree" countries

Reuters reports that Mauritania and Maldives, which both permit citizens who renounce Islam to be sentenced to death, have been elected vice-presidents of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has recently released the Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Non-religious, that lists seven countries where should one's religious beliefs be in abeyance with that recognised by the state, the death penalty can be sought.

Under what circumstances is it possible that a human rights organisation like the UNHCR can elect members from a pool of nations that have broken International Law with regard to freedom of religion as set out out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

The Covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial.

Article 27 of the ICCPR mandates the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minority to enjoy their own culture, to profess their own religion, and to use their own language.

However, Mauritania (signed 17 Nov 2004) outlaws apostasy, or the renunciation of the official religion for another or for a philosophy that does not recognise the existence of a deity. Anyone found guilty of the offence is given the opportunity to repent within three days, according to the report. If this is not done, the offender is sentenced to death and his property is confiscated by the state. 

The report also recorded two cases in 2010 in which Maldivians (signed 19 Sept 2006) who declared publicly they could not believe in Islam or any other religion were told they would face death if they did not renounce their views. One subsequently declared after special education he accepted Islam and the other committed suicide after writing a note saying he had been foolish to reveal his stance on religion to workmates.

Other than Mauritania and Maldives, the report names Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan as holding policies where the death penalty can be sought for ,amongst other 'crimes', apostasy and atheism.

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