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BHA says UN Human Rights Council is ‘not fit for purpose’

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today submitted evidence to a Commons Select Committee inquiry into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Annual Report 2007.

The BHA’s memorandum focused specifically on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which has been dominated by undemocratic, political and religious interests, and contended that the HRC is no longer fit for purpose.

Hanne Stinson, BHA Chief Executive, said, ‘We have serious and ongoing concerns about the HRC, which are reflected in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s report on human rights. In our evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry, we make special reference to the regular attempts by a number of Islamic States and their allies to restrict human rights, in particular the rights to freedom of expression and speech, and to belief.’

Ms Stinson continued, ‘In March, an alliance of Islamic states, supported by China, Russia and Cuba, moved and passed an amendment which in essence sanctions restrictions on free expression in relation to religion – attempting to prohibit criticism of Islam in particular. The freedom to criticise and even insult beliefs is part and parcel of the principle of free speech – a fundamental human right. For the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to now sanction the restriction of free speech in relation to religion proves beyond doubt that, without serious reform, the Council is unable to fulfil its mandate as the international human rights watchdog.’

‘In our evidence to the inquiry, we have urged the Foreign Affairs Committee to scrutinise the Human Rights Council and the UK’s involvement in and with it, and we have also written to the Minister responsible for the UN to ask whether the UK will now withdraw from the HRC, until reforms have been made’.

Notes

Read the BHA’s evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry here.

[BHA Memorandum Foreign Affairs Inquiry Human Rights 2004-08 FINAL.pdf]

You can read the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Human Rights Annual Report 2007 here. [pdf/human rights report-2007]

For more information, contact Hanne Stinson on 020 7079 3583.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the principal organisation representing the interests of the large and growing population of ethically concerned but non-religious people living in the UK. The BHA is deeply committed to human rights and advocates an open and inclusive society in which individual freedom of belief and speech are supported by a policy of disinterested impartiality on the part of the government and official bodies towards the many groups within society so long as they conform to the minimum conventions of the society.

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