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Discussion with the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion or Belief and on Human Rights and Counter-Terro
March 12, 2014

Clustered Interactive Dialogue of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or
Belief and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Lisa Brodey

Human Rights Council 25th Session

Geneva, March 11, 2014

Thank you, Mr. President.


The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief for his report.
We strongly agree with the Special Rapporteur’s observation that political authoritarianism is among the enabling factors for the spread of religious hatred, and that addressing religious hatred requires a climate of free communication and public discourse based on freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
Unfortunately, states with the greatest instances of religious hatred often react by further restricting the freedoms of expression and religion through measures such as incitement or blasphemy laws, which only further entrench authoritarianism and intolerance. We echo the Special Rapporteur’s call for the repeal of blasphemy laws and other restrictions on the freedoms of religion and expression.
We appreciate the Special Rapporteur’s detailed explanation of the Rabat Plan of Action, including the emphasis it places on preventive actions such as interfaith dialogue, speaking out against intolerance, and outreach to members of religious communities. HRC Resolution 16/18 also focuses on promoting such measures.
Nonetheless, many states still advocate for restrictions on speech, often justified under ICCPR Article 20(2). The Special Rapporteur’s report helpfully highlights the counter-productive nature of such restrictive policies.  The report further details the many ways in which other provisions of the ICCPR, as well as the language of Article 20(2) itself, limit the permissible scope of such restrictions. How have initiatives like the Istanbul Process to promote implementation of Resolution 16/18 contributed to a greater understanding of the need for a holistic approach to addressing religious hatred?
The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism for his report.
We are closely reviewing the report and take seriously the issues and considerations raised by the Special Rapporteur. In President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013, he articulated the legal and policy rationale for how the United States takes direct action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft.  The speech coincided with the signing of new policy guidance that formalized the exacting standards and processes that constitute our best practices for taking lethal action.   As the President made clear in May, we take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with U.S. values and policy.  Of particular note, before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.
Has the Special Rapporteur considered reporting on concerns regarding the use of counter-terrorism as a pretext for repressing domestic opposition groups and preventing members of such groups from exercising their civil and political rights?