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ID with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
March 2, 2018

ID with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

37th Session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, Switzerland
March 2, 2018

As prepared for delivery by Legal Adviser Katherine Gorove

Thank you, Madame Vice President.  The United States thanks Special Rapporteur Shaheed for all of his reporting on freedom of religion or belief.

Every individual has a right to freedom of religion or belief, regardless of creed. The United States strongly promotes and protects this right, as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Based on your research, states that control, regulate and restrict their residents’ adherence to an official religion have significant restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, and may more often discriminate against persons belonging to religious minorities, women, LGBTI persons, converts, apostates, and non-believers.  Discrimination by the state, particularly if religion is being used as a pretext, must be stopped.  In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must- at that moment- become the center of the universe.”  We will continue to engage with individuals of any faith community, and with those who choose not to believe, to understand the experiences and challenges they endure, and to speak out when we see persecution occurring, wherever that may be.

We agree with you, Dr. Shaheed, that some governments, in efforts to combat religious intolerance, undermine freedom of expression by restricting speech.  We continue to call for all anti-blasphemy laws to be repealed.  We also agree that states should work towards achieving equality for all individuals, including members of religious minorities.  We are deeply concerned about particularly vulnerable religious minority groups in many countries, such as Bahai in Iran and Yemen; the Yemeni Jewish population; Rohingya and other religious minorities in Burma; Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan; Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists in China; Christians, Yezidis, Shia Muslims, and members of other religious or ethnic minorities in areas ISIS controlled or controls, and we continue to advocate for more to be done to protect these groups.

In this regard, states should utilize measures called for by resolution 16/18, including those on education and interreligious communication.  We strongly support continued cooperation through the Istanbul Process to step up implementation of resolution 16/18, and we look forward to the next meeting.

Question:  SR Shaheed, you addressed an “overarching test” for whether State-religion entanglements perpetuate rights violations- can you elaborate on whether members of religious minorities are particularly susceptible to unequal treatment where states fail to meet this test?