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HRC 34: Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief and on Truth and Justice
March 7, 2017

Interactive Dialogue: Freedom of Religion or Belief and Truth/Justice

Statement delivered by Knox Thames, U. S. State Department Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia

Human Rights Council 34th Session
Geneva, March 6, 2017

The United States wants to thank the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief, Dr. Shaheed, for his work.  At a time when religious freedom is under attack around the world, both by states and by terrorists and other non-state actors, your mandate is critically important and we support it strongly.  Your January report rightfully highlights the close relationship between freedom of religion or belief and non-discrimination on this basis.

We agree that state actions in the name of security may negatively impact the exercise of freedom of religion or belief.  This is particularly true for members of vulnerable groups and minority religious communities.  Freedom of religion or belief belongs to all individuals, and States must protect this freedom for all persons regardless of their religion or belief, be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’I, Yazidi, Sikh, Hindu, atheist or converted.  States also must do more to promote religious tolerance, while taking steps to hold perpetrators of violence on the basis of religion or belief accountable.

The Istanbul Process provides opportunities for international experts to exchange best practices for implementing their obligations to protect freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression.  The United States also facilitates bilateral implementation workshops for legal and law enforcement experts and civil society leaders; and we have done so in five countries so far, and we have two more workshops scheduled this year.  We call upon all states to dedicate resources to ensure the full implementation of Resolution 16/18 and to report their progress to the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on implementation.

The United States also thanks the Special Rapporteur on Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparations, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence for his report.  We agree that victim participation in transitional justice processes is integral to an effective and credible justice mechanism as well as that open, inclusive and respectful societal discussion can play an important role in fostering tolerance, stability, and preventing future violations.

(end statement)