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Respect for Religious Diversity is an Essential Element of any Peaceful Society
March 22, 2013

General Comment:  EU Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief

 Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council 22nd Session

Geneva, March 21, 2013

The United States is pleased to co-sponsor the EU-sponsored resolution on the freedom of religion or belief. The United States strongly supports freedom of religion for all people around the world.  Unfortunately, in too many countries, governments fail to protect, or actively deny, their peoples’ fundamental right to believe according to their conscience and to manifest those beliefs, and subject their citizens to violence, severe discrimination, or arrest on account of those beliefs.  Too many people around the world face the threat of prosecution from blasphemy and apostasy laws, which governments frequently use to shield themselves from legitimate criticism, and fellow citizens use as weapons in private disputes.  Too many governments routinely fail to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of sectarian crimes, leading to a climate of impunity that may breed violent extremism.  These trends must be reversed if we are to realize sustainable peace in this world.

We note with particular concern the worsening plight of religious minority communities in Iran, including Christians, Sunnis, Sufis, Jews, and Baha’i. Iranian officials continue to restrict these communities’ freedom to practice their religious beliefs free from harassment, threat, or intimidation. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini’s continuing harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities exemplifies this trend. We repeat our call for the Government of Iran to release Mr. Abedini, and others who are unjustly imprisoned, and to cease immediately its persecution of all religious minority communities. The United States also repeats its call for the Government of Iran to provide without delay the urgent medical attention Mr. Abedini needs.

Respect for religious diversity is an essential element of any peaceful society, and religious freedom is a universal human right that all states have a responsibility to uphold.  We implore all states to live up to their obligations and to hold accountable those who seek to restrict the freedom of religion.