Humanists have highlighted human rights abuses in Morocco, Bangladesh and Iran at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Representatives of the British Humanist Association (BHA), IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) and the Center for Inquiry defended atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, attacked the practice of torture in Iran and protested against the persecution of atheists in Morocco.
Roy Brown, representing both the BHA and IHEU, made a speech in support of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh. He described the situation in the country, where Islamist groups are calling on the government to execute 84 atheist bloggers for ‘insulting Islam’. Several atheist bloggers have already been arrested, and a government official has promised to pursue all 84 bloggers on the list. Mr Brown defended the bloggers’ freedom of expression, and pointed out that the government’s actions in caving into the Islamists’ demands conflict with their obligations under international law. Mr Brown also highlighted the case of Sattar Baheshti in Iran, a blogger criticial of the Iranian regime, who died four days after being arrested after being tortured in Evin Prison.
Mr Brown criticised members of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) which apply the death penalty for apostasy. He called on the government of Bangladesh to release the atheist bloggers immediately, for the government of Iran to immediately cease all harassment, torture and murder of bloggers, and for all OIC member states to recognise their responsibilities under international law to respect freedom of opinion, expression and religion.
Elizabeth O’Casey, speaking of behalf of the Center for Inquiry and IHEU, also raised the issue of torture in Iran. She described how torture is systematic state policy in Iran, and that this is contrary to the country’s obligations under international law. Kacem El Ghazali, speaking on behalf of IHEU, condemned the persecution of atheists in Morocco. He described the various restrictions on freedom of expression in the country, such as a recent fatwa by the Higher Council of Religious Scholars (a government institution led by the King) which states that Muslims who reject their faith ‘should be condemned to death.’ He urged the government of Morocco and King Mohammed VI to rule as unlawful any fatwa from this council which breaches Morocco’s obligations under international law.
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Read the interventions on:
The International Humanist and Ethical Union: http://iheu.org/
The Center for Inquiry: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/
The UN Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.