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Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief is the Birthright of all People
Clustered Dialogue with the WG on Disappearances and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
March 6, 2012

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
UN Human Rights Council – 19th Session
Delivered by Charles O. Blaha

Working Group on Disappearances

The United States supports the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and encourages all States to engage cooperatively with the Working Group.  This is especially important for States that have not replied substantively concerning claims of enforced disappearances.

While we applaud the Working Group’s efforts in fulfilling its mandate of assisting families in determining the fate of missing family members, the number of unresolved cases remains staggering.

The United States also appreciates the Working Group’s effort to assist States in their implementation of the 1992 Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

While general comments are advisory in nature and are not to be construed as either restricting or expanding existing international obligations or rules, or as authoritative interpretations of such obligations or rules, we thank the independent experts who comprise the Working Group for the observations and views expressed in the Working Group’s latest general comment, including the recent interpretation of article 1.2 of the non-binding Declaration as it relates to the right to recognition as a person before the law.

This general comment illustrates particular problems that arise in different legal systems in relation to the right to recognition as a person in the context of enforced disappearances, and may effectively be used for practical or operational purposes to facilitate fulfillment of the Working Group’s mandate, in guiding both its future consideration of specific cases and in its dialogue with States in their implementation of this aspect of the Declaration.

Thank you for your report.


Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief 

The United States [also] thanks Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt for his efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief.

The right to freedom of religion or belief is the birthright of all people, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.  It includes the right to profess, practice, and teach one’s beliefs.  This right must be respected and protected by all governments. Societies that do are more stable, secure, and prosperous than those that do not.  The United States is committed to promoting and protecting this fundamental freedom at home and abroad, and we continue to work with the international community toward that goal.

We would also like to take this opportunity to express our regret for the unintentional mishandling of religious texts at Bagram Airbase.  These actions do not represent the views of the United States.  We honor and respect the religious practices of the Afghan people.

We will collaborate with Afghan authorities and carefully examine the facts and circumstances of this unfortunate incident.  While we understand the deep emotions such an incident can cause, we appreciate the efforts of the Afghan government, including President Karzai, in appealing for calm while allowing peaceful protests to occur.  We also note with appreciation the statement by OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu calling for calm and restraint.

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his most recent report, which discusses recognition, registration, and personality status issues.  We share the Special Rapporteur’s deep concern that some States make certain rights dependent on affiliation with particular religions and place limitations on access to official documents like identity cards.

Also, cumbersome registration requirements are being used to restrict the freedom of religion of members of various groups, especially minority faith groups.  States must relinquish these pernicious practices.

The United States appreciates the Special Rapporteur’s engagement on a number of other issues, including the freedom to profess one’s religion or belief.  We thank the Special Rapporteur for his recent participation in the first Istanbul process meeting to implement HRC Resolution 16/18.  It is critical that we continue to focus on implementation of positive, action-oriented measures to combat religious discrimination and intolerance rather than legal restrictions that are counter to human rights.

Are there any such concrete, positive steps the Special Rapporteur would like to highlight?

Thank you, Madame President.