UN rights panel adopts Pak resolution on religious hatred

An undated session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in this file image. — UNHCR

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan once again on Wednesday scored a major win when its draft resolution “Countering religious hatred, constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” was adopted by 28 countries at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Pakistan had made a special request for moving the draft resolution in its capacity as coordinator of OIC Group in Geneva and steered the draft resolution, on religious hatred in the wake of desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden.

There was no reaction or statement from the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the 57-nation OIC, calls for the UN rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred”.

It was strongly opposed by the United States and the European Union, who say it conflicts with their view on human rights and freedom of expression.

Hence, the European Union countries as well as the United States, including 12 others, voted against Pakistan’s resolution, while 7 countries abstained.

Earlier on Tuesday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Pakistan’s Universal Periodic Report unanimously. Several states and civil society organisations commended Pakistan on the progress achieved in promoting human rights.

Pakistan’s resolution condemns all manifestations of religious hatred, including “public and premeditated acts of desecration of the Holy Quran”, and underscores the need to hold those responsible to account.

It urges states to adopt laws to “address, prevent and prosecute acts and advocacy of religious hatred that constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

It also wants the UN rights chief Volker Turk to identify gaps in countries’ laws in light of Tuesday’s Quran desecration debate.

Marc Limon, Director of Geneva-based Universal Rights Group, said the outcome showed “the West is in full retreat at the Human Rights Council”.

“They’re increasingly losing support and as many as 28 countries — including China, India, South Africa, and Ukraine — voted in favour, 12 voted against, and seven countries abstained.

The vote’s outcome marks a major defeat for Western countries at a time when the OIC has unprecedented clout in the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide”.

On Tuesday, opening the debate, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto remarked, “There is not a single Muslim country on the planet that allows the desecration of the holy text of other religions. Such an act was unthinkable to any Muslim”. Pakistan was represented by Ambassador Khalil Hashmi, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva.

He shared the OIC Group perspective on the urgency to prevent and counter public acts of incitement to religious hatred as manifested by recurrent desecration of the Holy Quran.

The ambassador did not mince words when he accused the West of “lip service” to their commitment to prevent religious hatred.

”Opposition of a few in room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of Holy Quran or any other religious book. They lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the council could have expected from them,” he said.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, “Pakistan welcomes the adoption of the resolution entitled “Countering religious hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

“We are grateful to all the member countries of the UN Human Rights Council that supported the resolution moved by Pakistan on behalf of the OIC. Incidents like public desecration of the Holy Quran in Sweden can’t be tolerated at all. All religious symbols, holy personages and Divine Books are equally sacred for followers of all faiths.

“Those indulging in such despicable & vile acts as the burning of the Holy Quran in the name of freedom of expression need to be called out publicly. Humanity is better served by a consensus on the resolve to safeguard our shared values of religious tolerance, pluralism and respect for all faiths”.