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Report submitted by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur, in accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1996/23


          Economic and Social Distr.
          30 December 1996
          Original: ENGLISH/FRENCH
          Fifty-third session
          Item 19 of the provisional agenda
          Report submitted by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur, in
          accordance with Commission on Human Rights resolution 1996/23
          A. Dimensions of religious freedom
          B. Protection and promotion of religious freedom . .
          C. Other conclusions and recommendations
          1- 6
          - 43
          - 61
          - 68
          - 106
          - 82
          - 103
          - 106
          GE.97-lOOlS (E)
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 2
          1. At its forty-second session, the Commission on Human Rights decided,
          in resolution 1986/20 of 10 March 1986, to appoint for one year a special
          rapporteur to examine incidents and governmental action in all parts of the
          world inconsistent with the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination
          of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief,
          and to recommend remedial measures for such situations.
          2. In accordance with that resolution, the Special Rapporteur submitted his
          first report to the Commission at its forty-third session (E/CN.4/1987/35) .
          At that same session, by resolution 1987/15 of 4 March 1987, the Commission
          extended for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
          3. From 1988 onwards, the Special Rapporteur submitted yearly reports to
          the Commission (E/CN.4/1988/45 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1989/44; E/CN.4/1990/46;
          E/CN.4/1991/56; E/CN.4/1992/52; E/CN.4/1993/62 and Corr.1 and Add.1). The
          Commission decided twice to extend the Special Rapporteur's mandate for
          two years (resolutions 1988/55 and 1990/27) , and then once for three years
          (resolution 1992/17) until 1995.
          4. Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, who succeeded Mr. Angelo d'Almeida Ribeiro
          in 1993, submitted successive reports (E/CN.4/1994/79; E/CN.4/1995/91 and
          Add.1; E/CN.4/1996/95 and Add.1-2) to the Commission on Human Rights at
          its fiftieth, fifty-first and fifty-second sessions, as well as to the
          General Assembly at its fiftieth and fifty-first sessions.
          5. By its resolution 1995/23, of 24 February 1995, the Commission on Human
          Rights decided to extend the Special Rapporteur's mandate for a further
          three years.
          6. This report is submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights
          resolution 1996/23 of 19 April 1996. The Special Rapporteur has considered
          the status of communications sent since the Commission's fifty-second session,
          the importance of in situ visits and their follow-up, and the development of a
          culture of tolerance.
          7. This discussion of the status of communications and replies concerns
          communications sent since the fifty-second session of the Commission on Human
          Rights, the replies or absence of replies from the States concerned, and late
          8. Because of drastic budget cuts, the Special Rapporteur has been unable
          to publish these communications and the replies from States, contrary to the
          practice followed since the establishment of the mandate. This constraint is
          highly detrimental to the paramount importance of the information and to its
          educational function, and ultimately constitutes a form of information
          censorship that seriously undermines the Special Rapporteur's mandate.
          page 3
          Accordingly, the Special Rapporteur has analysed the information and can
          provide copies of the communications and replies available at the Centre for
          Human Rights in Geneva.
          9. Since the fifty-second session of the Commission on Human Rights, the
          Special Rapporteur has sent communications to 49 States: Afghanistan,
          Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia,
          Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burundi, Chad, China (2) , Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt,
          Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of) ,
          Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Malaysia,
          Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan (2) , Romania,
          Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Tajikistan, Turkey,
          Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America,
          Viet Nam, Yemen and Yugoslavia.
          10. Among the communications addressed to States, reference will be made
          in particular to the urgent appeals sent to China, Iran (2) , Egypt and
          the United Arab Emirates. The urgent appeal sent to China concerns reports
          of the detention of the venerable Yulo Dawa Tsering, a Tibetan monk whom
          the Special Rapporteur had consulted during his visit to China (see
          E/CN.4/1995/1991) and in respect of whom the Chinese authorities had
          undertaken to ensure that no negative consequences would result from the
          aforesaid meeting.
          11. The urgent appeals sent to Iran concern, first, the priest Yusefi, born
          a Muslim and converted to Christianity, who was found hanged in circumstances
          not yet clarified, which, in view of the murders of Protestant clergymen
          in 1994, may legitimately raise questions; and, second, Mr. Moussa Talibi, a
          Muslim converted to the Baha'i faith, whose sentencing to death for apostasy
          by a revolutionary tribunal follows upon the cases of Mr. Mahrami,
          Mr. Mithaqui and Mr. Khalajabadi, all three also being Baha'is and sentenced
          to death for apostasy.
          12. The urgent appeals sent to Egypt concern the case of Professor Nasr
          Hamed Abu Zeid, of Cairo University, declared an apostate by the Egyptian
          courts, following a petition by Islamic plaintiffs, on account of his writings
          on the interpretation of the Koran, which were deemed anti-Islamic. As a
          result, he has been unable to remain married to his Muslim wife.
          13. The Abu Zeid case furthermore raises a grave matter of principle. It
          concerns the very substance of freedom of conscience, belief and religion, as
          well as freedom of opinion.
          14. In the consideration of this matter, the Special Rapporteur received the
          cooperation of the Egyptian Government, which responded promptly to the two
          urgent appeals. The Government's replies and the inquiries and investigations
          conducted make it possible to attest, first, that the judicial authorities
          enjoy real independence vis-&-vis the official political authorities and,
          second, that the executive and legislative branches in Egypt are endeavouring
          to contain extremism and intolerance, in particular through progressive and
          prudent legislative measures that would deserve to be strengthened on a
          continuing basis. In that connection, it is worth noting Act No. 3
          of 29 January 1996, which entitles only the public prosecutor's office to
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 4
          institute hisba proceedings, as brought by the plaintiffs who claimed to be
          acting in the name of Islam against Professor Abu Zeid, and Act No. 68
          of 21 May 1996, which specifies the conditions for taking legal action. It
          should further be noted that the judgement of the Court of Cassation, rendered
          on 5 August 1996 and having the force of res judicata , has led to an action
          being brought against the judges, inter alia , for serious breaches of the
          rules concerning the competence and functioning of the Court of Cassation
          and for neglect of the duties incumbent upon judges. The action seeks, in
          particular, to have the Court's judgement declared null and void. In any
          event, the judgement may not be enforceable because of a recent judicial
          decision the text of which has not yet been communicated.
          15. The Special Rapporteur would like to underscore the ceaseless efforts of
          the Egyptian authorities to combat intolerance and discrimination based on
          religion or belief; those efforts should be welcomed, supported, pursued and
          16. The urgent appeal sent to the United Arab Emirates concerns a Christian,
          Mr. Elie Dib Ghalib, who is said to have been arrested and subjected to
          ill-treatment on account of his marriage to a Muslim. On 29 October 1996, a
          court reportedly annulled the marriage and sentenced Mr. Ghalib to 39 lashes
          and one year's imprisonment for immoral marital relations. A reply from the
          United Arab Emirates is now awaited.
          17. Concerning the analysis of the communications, the religious communities
          in respect of which violations of religious freedom are alleged to have taken
          place may be classified very broadly as follows:
          (a) Christianity : Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria,
          Burundi, China, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lao People's
          Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Romania,
          Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, Yemen;
          (b) Islam : Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
          Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Yemen;
          (c) Buddhism : China, Russian Federation, Viet Nam;
          (d) Hinduism : Yemen;
          (e) Judaism : Belarus, Turkey;
          (f) Other religions, religious groups and religious communities :
          (i) Baha'is : Armenia, Indonesia;
          (ii) Jehovah's Witnesses : Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Eritrea,
          Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Indonesia, Singapore;
          (iii) Hare Krishna : Armenia;
          (iv) Al Argam : Malaysia;
          page 5
          (v) Darul Argam : Indonesia;
          (vi) Mormons : Ukraine;
          (vii) Navajos (Dine) and Apaches : United States of America;
          (g) All religions and religious groups except the official or State
          religion : Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Israel, Maldives.
          18. In the analysis of the communications by topic, six categories of
          violations may be identified.
          19. The first category concerns violations of the principle of
          non-discrimination with regard to religion or belief.
          (a) It includes allegations of discriminatory policies and/or laws and
          regulations concerning religion and belief:
          (i) In Saudi Arabia, those said to be affected are Christians
          and Shiites;
          (ii) In Brunei Darussalam and Maldives, non-Muslims are allegedly
          discriminated against through the legislation;
          (iii) In the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the United Arab
          Emirates, the authorities are said to be applying a
          discriminatory policy against Christians;
          (iv) In Israel, Christians and Muslims are reportedly subject to
          a similar policy;
          (v) In Eritrea, the Jehovah's Witnesses are also alleged to have
          suffered discrimination for expressing their religious
          (b) A violation of the principle of non-discrimination is found in
          Bulgaria's alleged refusal to grant official recognition to religious groups
          such as the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance, most Christian missions,
          independent churches and theological institutes;
          (c) There are said to be bans on certain religious communities, such
          as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Baha'is and Darul Arqam in Indonesia; the
          Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church are also reportedly prohibited
          in Malaysia and Singapore;
          (d) A communication was sent to the United Kingdom authorities
          concerning the publication of articles in the press conveying a negative
          and discriminatory image of Muslims. Violations of the principle of
          non-discrimination are also to be found indirectly in the five other
          categories of violations.
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 6
          20. The second category relates to violations of the principle of tolerance
          in the area of religion and belief and reflects a concern about religious
          (a) In Algeria and Yemen, such extremism may threaten an entire
          (b) Some categories of persons may be particularly affected:
          (i) In Afghanistan and Bangladesh, women are the principal
          (ii) In Chad, artists are a prime target;
          (iii) In Egypt, teachers may be taken to court for their writings
          by extremists who claim to be acting in the name of Islam;
          (iv) Some religious minorities are also affected by religious
          extremism in Bangladesh, Mexico, Somalia and Turkey;
          (c) It is important to recall that religious extremism, of whatever
          denomination, may occur within as well as between religious groups.
          21. The third category concerns violations of freedom of thought, conscience
          and religion or belief.
          (a) The question of conscientious objection is raised directly:
          (i) In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Greece,
          conscientious objectors are liable to prosecution;
          (U) In Eritrea, the Jehovah's Witnesses, as conscientious
          objectors, have lost their citizenship rights;
          (iii) In Croatia, Cyprus, the Russian Federation and Singapore,
          cases of imprisonment for refusal to perform military
          service have been reported;
          (iv) Other allegations raise the problem of the absence of legal
          recognition of the right of conscientious objection, as in
          Eritrea and Singapore;
          (v) In the Russian Federation, the law does not provide for
          alternative service;
          (vi) In Cyprus, some legal provisions recognize conscientious
          objection and provide for non-armed military service,
          although this is not in conformity with international law;
          (b) Some allegations refer to official campaigns aimed at forcing
          believers to renounce their faith, as in the Lao People's Democratic Republic;
          (c) The freedom to change one's religion is also being violated;
          page 7
          (i) In Bhutan and Maldives, this freedom is subject to
          (ii) In Kuwait, a Muslim converting to another religion is liable
          to prosecution;
          (iii) In Mexico, allegations of ill-treatment by members of
          communities against converted persons have been reported.
          22. The fourth category concerns violations of the freedom to manifest one's
          religion or belief:
          (a) In Armenia and Japan, some allegations refer to control by the
          authorities of religious activities;
          (b) This category covers restrictions, or even a ban, on public
          manifestations (China, Lebanon, Maldives, Romania) or private manifestations
          (China, Saudi Arabia) ; religious beliefs and practices concerning certain
          religious groups, certain categories of persons, mainly aliens (Belarus,
          Ukraine) , and certain professional bodies, such as the army;
          (c) In Bolivia, all religious services other than those of the
          official religion are prohibited within the framework of military service;
          (d) Violations of the freedom to manifest one's religion or
          belief also often involve a ban on proselytizing; in Armenia, Bhutan,
          Brunei Darussalam and Maldives, such a ban applies essentially to certain
          religious communities and may be the subject of special legislation; in
          Morocco and Nepal, prison sentences are also applicable.
          23. The fifth category concerns violations of the freedom to dispose of
          religious property.
          (a) In Albania, Belarus and the United States of America, the
          communications sent raise the question of the restitution of goods and
          properties to religious communities;
          (b) In Israel, the allegations concern restricted access to places of
          worship for devout Muslims;
          (c) In Bulgaria, China and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, some
          places of worship have been closed by the authorities;
          (d) In Indonesia, Romania and Turkey, bureaucratic obstacles to the
          acquisition of property by certain religious communities have been reported;
          (e) Lastly, places of worship seem to be the target of very serious
          violations, in particular arson (Indonesia) , desecration (Yemen) , attempted
          extortion (Turkey) and destruction (China) .
          24. The sixth category concerns violations of the right to life, physical
          integrity and health of persons (clergy and believers) . There have been many
          reported cases of threats (Chad, Yemen) , ill-treatment, arrests and detention
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 8
          (Armenia, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Lao People's Democratic Republic,
          Malaysia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Viet Nam) and even murders
          (Burundi, Mexico, Pakistan, Somalia, Tajikistan, Yemen) . Such violations
          also appear in the category of religious extremism.
          25. With regard to States' replies to communications other than urgent
          appeals, it should be pointed out that the deadline for replies had not
          expired, by the time of writing of this report, for 12 States: Afghanistan,
          Algeria, Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
          Greece, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States of America.
          However, Afghanistan very promptly forwarded a reply to the allegations
          submitted to it. The rapidity with which the Afghan authorities responded
          deserves to be emphasized.
          26. Of the 34 States for which the deadline has expired (Albania, Armenia,
          Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Chad, China, Croatia,
          Cyprus, Eritrea, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Lao People's
          Democratc Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal,
          Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Tajikistan,
          Ukraine, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Yemen) , 13 States have replied (Armenia,
          Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Croatia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Lao People's
          Democratic Republic, Mexico, Morocco, Romania, Russian Federation, Ukraine,
          United Kingdom) .
          27. Concerning the content of the replies, Afghanistan stated that the
          Taliban are the most retrograde, obscurantist and backward forms ever known
          not only in Afghanistan but in the region. It was added that, after the
          taking of Kabul by the Taliban, the High Council of the Islamic State of
          Afghanistan had issued a statement reaffirming its commitment to the
          principles of democracy and respect for human rights.
          28. Armenia outlined its legislation guaranteeing religious freedom and
          its manifestations. Concerning acts of religious intolerance against
          non-apostolic religious communities, it was stated that measures sanctioning
          them had restored religious stability.
          29. Brunei Darussalam emphasized its commitment to peace and harmony and
          explained that restrictions in the religious field, regardless of the religion
          in question, were designed to maintain peace, order and harmony. It was
          indicated that non-Muslims could practise their religion and had sufficient
          places of worship.
          30. Bulgaria made detailed reference to its legislation and policy
          concerning religious freedom. Particular emphasis was placed on the
          conformity of national legislation with international human rights law.
          Concerning the registration of religious communities, it was pointed out that
          30 denominations and some 70 religious communities and foundations had been
          registered as at 30 August 1996, whereas only 4 denominations and no
          foundation had taken advantage of the registration procedure in 1989.
          Bulgaria reported 22 communities and foundations as not having obtained
          approval to register, including the Jehovah's Witnesses inasmuch as the
          prohibition of blood transfusion represents a danger to health and the refusal
          to swear allegiance to the national flag infringes national security and the
          page 9
          law on military service. It is essential, according to Bulgaria, that the
          religious communities should not be in a situation at variance with the
          national legislation.
          31. Croatia, referring to the case of a Jehovah's Witness and conscientious
          objector, drew attention to its legislation guaranteeing and instituting
          alternative civilian service.
          32. Indonesia pointed out that religious tolerance was the very foundation
          of the unity of the country, characterized as it was by a very great ethnic
          and religious diversity. Indonesian legislation was described as guaranteeing
          religious freedom as well as the freedom to establish places of worship. It
          was stated that practice was in conformity with that legislation. The
          prohibition of the Baha'is, the Jehovah's Witnesses and fundamentalist sects
          of Islam is, according to the Indonesian authorities, a measure taken by the
          Government in conformity with article 1, paragraph 3, of the Declaration on
          the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on
          Religion or Belief. Indonesia also considered that the allegations of
          unilateral appointment of Muslim, Catholic and Protestant teachers by the
          authorities were completely unfounded and that, on the contrary, the principle
          of flexibility determined the appointment of teachers of religion. The
          allegations of arson concerning two churches and a temple at Banyu Biru and
          Nusakarta were also challenged by the Indonesian authorities.
          33. Kuwait provided a general response, referring for the most part to its
          positive law and stating that judicial cases are examined in accordance with
          the laws of the country.
          34. The Lao People's Democratic Republic provided information on its
          legislation in the area of tolerance and non-discrimination with regard
          to religion or belief and denied reports of an official campaign against
          Christians. It was, however, emphasized that some Christians and
          non-governmental organizations had used religion for political ends, contrary
          to the laws in force, and were trying to convert people to Christianity in
          exchange for material assistance and promises of exemption from military
          service or State taxes. Those responsible for such disturbances of public
          order and social stability, whatever their religion, are liable to
          35. In its reply concerning the detention and subsequent hospitalization
          of a Muslim who had converted to Christianity and been found guilty of
          evangelism, Morocco stated that he had left the hospital at Inezgane
          on 3 June 1996.
          36. Mexico provided detailed information and documentation on State
          initiatives and action to promote reconciliation and respect for the religious
          freedom of the Chamula and Catholic evangelical religious minorities.
          37. Romania disputed the allegations of discrimination against the Romanian
          Evangelical Alliance, especially as regards the procedures for approving
          construction permits for places of worship. Moreover, it claimed that the two
          ‘Woice of Gospel” radio stations had received authorization from the National
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 10
          Radio and Television Council to broadcast, but on another frequency. As for
          the restitution of church property taken over by the State in 1948, the
          authorities outlined State legislation and policy in that area, which sought
          to identify the most appropriate measures for preserving the current social
          usefulness of the property in question without creating privileges for certain
          religions to the detriment of others.
          38. The United Kingdom indicated that State subsidies to private schools
          were granted irrespective of the religious denomination of the establishment.
          It was stated that, out of three applications for public funding from Muslim
          schools, one had been withdrawn and the two others did not meet the criteria
          established by the Secretary of State. Concerning the negative image of the
          Muslim community in some of the media, it was recalled that freedom of the
          press could be monitored by the Press Council.
          39. The Russian Federation informed the Special Rapporteur of the release of
          conscientious objector Uvan Chaa Dozur-ool Mongushevich.
          40. Ukraine drew attention to the absence of restrictions on the activities
          of foreign religious organizations and outlined its legislation guaranteeing
          the principle of religious tolerance and non-discrimination with regard to
          belief or opinion.
          41. It will furthermore be noted that, to date, replies to communications
          sent within the framework of the report submitted to the fifty-second session
          of the Commission on Human Rights are awaited from the following 31 States:
          Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Bulgaria,
          Cambodia, China, Cuba, Estonia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic,
          Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nicaragua,
          Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone,
          Singapore, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Yemen.
          42. The Special Rapporteur would like to invite States, and especially those
          which have not yet replied to communications, to show more cooperation and
          more interest.
          43. Late replies were, nevertheless, received from the following States:
          (a) Germany emphasized the absence of discrimination against the
          Church of Scientology and the Universal Life Church, and also the lack of
          evidence provided, as well as the non-exhaustion of domestic remedies by the
          (b) Saudi Arabia considered that the sole aim of the allegations was
          to harm the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia;
          (c) Austria made the following points: ‘ no legal recognition to the
          Jehovah's Witnesses as public law corporation”; ‘ the Jehovah's Witnesses not
          only object to military service proper but also to alternative service of a
          civilian nature ... Moreover, the Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal to permit
          blood transfusion has problematical effects on public order in the field of
          health”. The community may, however, practise its faith;
          page 11
          (d) Belgium indicated that all legally recognized religions were
          protected by constitutional law and that the Government, after examining the
          criteria for recognition of religions, was to amend the law of 4 March 1870
          on temporal power;
          (e) China, responding to the urgent appeal of 14 November 1995,
          considered illegal the proclamation by the Dalai Lama of a child as
          reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, attributed the resignation of
          Chadrel Rimpoch& from the committee looking for the successor of the
          Panchen Lama to health reasons, and underlined the Chinese authorities'
          respect for the identification of the child reincarnation of the Panchen Lama;
          (f) Japan replied that the purpose of the review of the 1951 Religious
          Juridical Persons Law was to adapt it to present conditions and not to control
          the religious activities of juridical persons;
          (g) Maldives recalled that freedom of religion and conscience were
          guaranteed by the national legislation and that it constituted the foundation
          of society;
          (h) Pakistan stated that inquiries would be made into the
          circumstances of the death of Mr. Mukhtar Masih;
          (i) Slovenia felt that the question of properties confiscated from the
          Catholic Church and their restitution was not a human rights issue;
          (j) Ukraine explained that a public establishment had been rented by
          the Ukrainian Unionist Church of the Seventh Day Adventists for conferences
          of a historical, scientific and religious nature; that the programme had
          subsequently been altered for purposes of religious propaganda, causing
          political and religious tensions on the eve of celebrations on the fortieth
          day after the death of Patriarch Vladimir of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church;
          and that finally, in agreement with the authorities, the Unionist Church had
          cut short its programme.
          44. In situ visits and follow-up are an essential feature of the mandate
          on religious intolerance. Visits are of paramount importance, in the
          Special Rapporteur's view, both for gathering opinions and comments on all
          alleged incidents and government action incompatible with the Declaration, and
          for analysing and passing on the experience and positive initiatives of States
          pursuant to General Assembly resolution 50/183 and Commission on Human Rights
          resolution 1996/23.
          45. Since 1994, the Special Rapporteur has visited China, in November 1994,
          on the initiative of the People's Republic of China (see E/CN.4/1995/91).
          He paid a visit to Pakistan in June 1995 (see E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.1) at the
          invitation of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He also
          went to Iran in December 1995 (see E/CN.4/1996/95/Add.2) .
          46. The Special Rapporteur visited Greece in June 1996 (see A/51/542/Add.1)
          at the invitation of the Greek Government, and Sudan in September (see
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 12
          A/51/542/Add.2) at the invitation of the Sudanese Government and pursuant
          to General Assembly resolution 50/197 and Commission on Human Rights
          resolution 1996/73. The two reports on these visits he submitted to the
          General Assembly at its fifty-first session are also before the Commission
          on Human Rights at its current session for information.
          47. The thrust of the report on Greece (A/51/542/Add.1) can be summarized in
          the following remarks.
          48. The Greek Constitution guarantees freedom of belief to all whilst
          freedom of worship, although constitutionally protected, may be subject to
          certain limitations owing to the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Church
          as the ‘ dominant religion”, the uncertainties surrounding the notion of a
          ‘ known religion”, and the fact that proselytizing is banned. This situation
          has definite repercussions on religious minorities.
          49. The Catholic, Protestant and Jehovah's Witness minorities are confronted
          to varying degrees with a general climate of intolerance. Subject to direct
          or indirect, often insidious attacks, they tend to be consigned to the
          sidelines both in religious matters and in professional life and education.
          The State does not always appear to be independent enough of the dominant
          Orthodox Church. Among the Christian minorities, the plight of the Jehovah's
          Witnesses gives the greatest cause for concern: adherents are often convicted
          and fined or, worse, imprisoned, and they suffer social ostracism which
          sometimes takes the form of physical and verbal abuse. This is certainly
          not unconnected to their religious militancy as expressed through their
          proselytizing activities, their conscientious objection to military service
          and the various public demonstrations they stage which challenge the Orthodox
          Church and aspects of State legislative and political activity.
          50. The Jewish minority, by contrast, seems to escape discrimination, but
          like the other minorities it decries the indication of religion on identity
          cards (which has not yet been banned despite an appeal by the European
          Parliament) .
          51. The situation of the Muslim minority in western Thrace, despite some
          positive developments in, for example, higher education, has not budged,
          and there have been tensions and serious blocks, as can be seen in the way
          ‘ muftis” are appointed, the way religious property is managed and the status
          of religious and mother-tongue instruction. Serious religious malaise is
          spreading, and is increasingly being taken up for reasons evidently nothing
          to do with religion. The status of the Muslim minority in western Thrace is
          intrinsically both a religious and a political question in which religion is
          often turned to political ends. The situation is best explained by political
          relations between Greece and Turkey. Most people the Special Rapporteur has
          met who have no governmental ties, whatever their political stripe, emphasize
          that the Muslim minority in Thrace is a hostage to relations between Greece
          and Turkey: Turkey regards them as political pawns and Greece pays little
          heed to the community, which has long been kept on the sidelines and subjected
          to both visible and latent forms of intolerance. The fate of the Muslims in
          Thrace is still bound up with that of the Greek minority and Orthodox
          Patriarchate in Constantinople, which are said to suffer intolerance and
          discrimination in Turkey.
          page 13
          52. The thrust of the report on the Sudan (A/51/542/Add.2) may be conveyed
          in the following remarks.
          53. It is laid down in the Sudanese Constitution that ‘ Islam is the religion
          which guides the great majority of the Sudanese. It is the basis of the laws,
          rules and policies of the State. Every individual, however, is free to adopt
          other revealed religions, such as Christianity or traditional religious
          beliefs. Religious freedom shall be guaranteed by the State and its laws.”
          On the other hand, Sudan is known to have a grand tradition of tolerance, and
          Islam was not brought to the country by conquest.
          54. After the coup d'&tat in 1989, Sudan embarked on a new political
          experiment in which religious discourse appears to be increasingly
          significant. Dr. Tourabi, the Chairman of the Sudanese parliament, believes
          that Islam is not just a religion but an entire civilization, a way of life
          which touches on all aspects of existence and cannot be contained within the
          narrow confines of places of worship. The message of Islam is addressed to
          all mankind and transcends frontiers and time. This view of Islam may have
          consequences for religious freedom. The religious aspect of the conflict in
          the south, originally very limited and sometimes purely latent, has become a
          source of antagonism. The actions of the authorities throughout the country,
          including the south, seem to indicate a policy of Islamization and
          Arabization. According to oft-confirmed reports, Christians and JIIimists, but
          also Muslims who do not toe the official line, suffer numerous restrictions on
          their religious freedom or are exposed to discrimination, even persecution, in
          other areas of their lives.
          55. Since 1996, when a political charter clearly based on citizenship, not
          religion, was adopted, it would appear that there has been a review resulting
          in positive changes in, among others, the religious area, underpinned by a new
          type of political communication and public relations. Among other things,
          this review is helping to bring about a solution in the south of the country.
          International pressure, the country's economic situation and a concern to
          minimize tension are said to be the reasons for this new line - but how far
          the change extends can be judged only by events on the ground, which seem so
          far to indicate a continuing clash between traditional Sudanese tolerance and
          intolerant, discriminatory tendencies and behaviour based on religion or
          belief. The report gives a less terse account, taking into consideration the
          allegations made and the various different points of view, in the light of
          established international standards of religious freedom and tolerance.
          56. After reporting to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur paid a
          visit to India in December 1996 under his mandate on religious intolerance at
          the invitation of the Indian Government (see E/CN.4/1997/91/Add.1).
          57. As regards future visits, the Special Rapporteur expects to visit
          Australia and Germany in 1997 at the invitation of the authorities concerned.
          58. Requests for visits were also sent to Turkey in 1995 and to Indonesia
          and Mauritius in 1996, but to date the Special Rapporteur has had no reply.
          Turkey has the matter under consideration but has not yet ventured to reply.
          To a request for a visit in 1995 the Vietnamese authorities replied that they
          were considering the matter; a definitive response from them is expected.
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 14
          There are questions hanging over Turkey and Viet Nam which, in the Special
          Rapporteur's view, require thorough consideration as soon as possible.
          59. Following up on visits already made is another important aspect of the
          60. For this reason, the Special Rapporteur embarked in 1996 on follow-ups
          to his visits to China, Iran and Pakistan. Letters were sent to the permanent
          missions of the three countries asking for comments and information on action
          the authorities had planned or taken on the Special Rapporteur's
          recommendations (see A/51/542, annex I). He has had a reply from the Chinese
          authorities (see A/51/542, annex II), to whom he is duly grateful. The
          Iranian authorities have also cooperated, in consultations in Geneva, and the
          Special Rapporteur looks forward to receiving their comments and information
          in response to his letter. Lastly, he has noted the cooperative attitude of
          the Pakistani authorities at the latest session of the Commission on Human
          Rights and is hoping for a reply to his follow-up letter.
          61. The Special Rapporteur counts on cooperation from all States in enabling
          him not only to make in situ visits but especially to follow up the visits
          already made.
          62. As all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or
          belief have their birth in the human mind, so it is at human minds that
          action should initially be directed.
          63. Education may be the prime means of combating discrimination and
          intolerance. It can be decisive in inculcating values predicated on human
          rights and fostering tolerant, non-discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, in
          individuals and groups, thus helping to spread the culture of human rights.
          In this sense, schools play an essential part in people's upbringing.
          Particular attention thus needs to be paid, throughout the world, to what
          school curricula and school books have to say about religious freedom and
          64. The Special Rapporteur is firmly convinced that lasting progress in
          tolerance and non-discrimination in matters of religion or belief can be
          brought about largely in school.
          65. Accordingly, he conducted a survey, by means of a questionnaire
          addressed to States, on freedom of religion and belief from the standpoint
          of the curricula and textbooks used in primary or elementary and secondary
          educational institutions. The results of such a survey could help to shape
          an international educational strategy, centred on the definition and
          implementation of a common minimum curriculum of tolerance and
          non-discrimination, for combating all forms of intolerance and discrimination
          based on religion or belief.
          66. The Special Rapporteur has received replies from the
          following 79 States: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Austria,
          page 15
          Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso,
          Chile, China, Colombia, C6te d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark,
          Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Guatemala, Holy See, Honduras,
          India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho,
          Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco,
          Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Norway, Oman,
          Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania,
          St. Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden,
          Switzerland, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia,
          Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
          United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia and Zambia.
          67. Recalling Commission on Human Rights resolution 1994/18, which
          encouraged him to examine the contribution that education could make to
          the more effective promotion of religious tolerance, and Commission
          resolutions 1995/23 and 1996/23 and General Assembly resolution 50/183, all of
          which stress the importance of education in ensuring tolerance of religion and
          belief, the Special Rapporteur invites all States which have not yet done so
          to reply to the questionnaire he sent them in order to give the results of the
          survey the fullest possible scope.
          68. The Special Rapporteur emphasizes once again that suitable resources
          must be made available for the mandate on religious intolerance if the
          information received is to be turned to proper advantage, analysed and used to
          further the objective sought.
          69. Besides his analysis of communications and replies from States and
          the various visits he has made, the Special Rapporteur wishes to proffer
          conclusions and recommendations on, in particular, some aspects of religious
          freedom and the protection and promotion of that freedom.
          A. Dimensions of religious freedom
          Right to change religion
          70. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets forth, in article 18, the
          principle that ‘ everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and
          religion”, and clearly states that such a right ‘ includes freedom to change
          his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others,
          and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching,
          practise, worship and observance”.
          71. The 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
          the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
          Discrimination follow in the direction set by the 1948 Declaration but do not
          explicitly restate the right to change religion.
          72. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
          offers general recognition of the right ‘ to have or to adopt” a religion of
          one's choice.
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 16
          73. The 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and
          of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief also makes general provision for
          the ‘ freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of [ one's] choice”. Like
          the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it contains no
          formal, explicit statement of the right to change religion, but the omission
          cannot be interpreted as betokening an intention to dilute the provisions of
          the 1948 Declaration.
          74. The World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, June 1993), while
          acknowledging concerns about specifics and invoking national legislation,
          strongly reaffirmed the universal nature of human rights.
          75. The variety of formulations used to refer to the acknowledgement and
          development of religious freedom do not amount to a denial of the right to
          change religion.
          76. Lastly, many formulations address a single point. They have cast doubt
          on the underpinnings of religious freedom and lent support to those who
          believe that religious freedom cannot extend to recognition of the right to
          change religion.
          77. It is now established that religious freedom cannot be dissociated from
          the freedom to change religion.
          78. As long ago as 1986, Elisabeth Odio B&nito wrote of the 1948 and 1981
          Declarations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
          that, although they varied slightly in wording, all meant precisely the same
          thing: that everyone had the right to leave one's religion or belief and to
          adopt another, or to remain without any at all. That meaning, she added, was
          implicit in the concept of the right to freedom of thought, conscience,
          religion and belief, regardless of how the concept was presented.
          79. In its general comment 22 on article 18 of the International Covenant
          on Civil and Political Rights, the Human Rights Committee reached the same
          conclusion. It observes that the freedom to IIave or to adopt” a religion or
          belief necessarily entails a freedom to choose a religion or belief, including
          the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt
          atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief.
          80. The Special Rapporteur therefore emphasizes once again the right to
          change religion as a legally essential aspect of religious freedom.
          The right to conscientious objection
          81. The right of conscientious objection is intrinsically bound up with
          religious freedom.
          82. The Special Rapporteur reminds States of Commission on Human Rights
          resolution 1989/59, often reaffirmed, which recognizes ‘ the right of everyone
          to have conscientious objections to military service as a legitimate exercise
          of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as laid down in
          article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as article 18
          of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”. The Commission
          page 17
          recommends that States ‘ with a system of compulsory military service, where
          such provision has not already been made, [ ... ] introduce for conscientious
          objectors various forms of alternative service” which ‘ should be in principle
          of a non-combatant or civilian nature, in the public interest and not a
          punitive nature”.
          B. Protection and promotion of religious freedom
          Religious freedom and human rights
          83. Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of
          Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief is inseparable
          from the general question of respect for all human rights, which cannot be
          truly promoted in the absence of democracy and development. Consequently,
          action to promote human rights must include measures to establish, strengthen
          and protect democracy as an expression of human rights at the political level
          and, at the same time, measures to contain and progressively eliminate extreme
          poverty and promote the right of individuals and peoples to development as an
          expression of human rights and human solidarity in the economic, social and
          cultural areas. In other words, as the World Conference on Human Rights put
          it, ‘ democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental
          freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing” . Any separation of the
          elements of this tripartite concept, like any selectivity in this area, is apt
          to reduce human rights to a topic of variable substance and scope, and that
          could have unfavourable repercussions on the mechanisms and procedures for
          protecting human rights, including religious freedom.
          Religion and politics
          84. Most religions have an implicit or explicit political dimension. This
          sometimes makes the problems of protecting religious freedom difficult to deal
          with and raises the question of the relationship between politics and religion
          and, in particular, between the State and religion.
          85. Religion may be taken up by a State. The State may be the means by
          which a religion is expressed. It will then be subordinate to that religion,
          to the point of having no independent will beyond that of the religion. This
          may lead to the State's being subsumed by the religion. In such a case, the
          institutions of State are at the service of a religious will - or a will
          attributed to a religion. Schools are enlisted to ensure that the religion
          prevails, offering military or paramilitary training where necessary. Places
          of worship may be used to brief, mobilize and recruit the faithful so that
          nothing in public or political life escapes the religion's embrace.
          ‘ Political” parties - where they exist - may compete with each other or the
          State by a variety of means to enforce or help enforce a religious (or
          ostensibly religious) policy. In such circumstances, there is little
          likelihood that religious freedom will yield the fruits expected of it.
          86. A State may be of a religion; a religion, in turn, may be of a State -
          its to manipulate. The State enshrines the religion in order to have it at
          its service, provide it with the things it may need, channel it, contain it
          and, hence, very often dominate and even subjugate it. In any event, the sway
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 18
          of the religion will not extend far unless the State wishes it to or unless
          extremist religious or political movements seize on religion as a means of
          87. Situations of both types exist, and are not always easy to manage.
          88. Between the two extremes mentioned above, religion may adapt to a
          variety of intermediate situations ranging from militant secularism to a
          situation where the State and religion interact. What remains true is that,
          irrespective of history and geography, religions do - to differing degrees -
          play a part in the culture of a society and in human civilization. It is not,
          therefore, correct to exclude it completely from public life. Neither,
          however, is it correct for a religion to take over, or to identify itself with
          politics or culture. In other words, sociological, cultural and political
          considerations cannot but encourage interaction between the State and
          religion, it being understood that such interaction cannot encompass extreme
          positions and that wisdom lies in moderation.
          89. JIIti-religious clericalism and religious clericalism are just as likely
          to polarize religion as politics. Politics must remain independent and
          political, albeit sensitive to religion. Religion must remain independent and
          religious, albeit sensitive toward the political sphere. The crucial point is
          always to strike a balance that takes account of religion's cultural and
          sociological dimension without lending itself to subordination, domination or
          subjugation; in relations with its citizens the State must, whatever happens,
          stand aloof from ideology and religion, since citizenship of any kind implies
          and represents a relationship to a State, and to a State alone.
          Religious freedom and religious extremism
          90. Besides what he has said in the section entitled Weligion and politics”
          the Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize that hatred, intolerance and acts
          of violence, including those motivated by religious extremism, may give rise
          to situations that threaten or somehow compromise international peace and
          security, infringing human rights and the right to peace as internationally
          established, particularly by General Assembly resolution 39/11 dated
          12 November 1994, ‘teclaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace”.
          91. Upholding the right to peace is a good reason for developing
          international solidarity so as to stifle religious extremism.
          92. Extremism in any religion, wherever it appears, openly or latently,
          covertly or overtly, and potentially or explicitly violent, merits a hard look
          at the causes - including economic and social causes - and at its immediate
          and longer-term effects: a hard look without selectivity or ambivalence,
          leading to the definition and observance by States of a basic set of standard
          rules and principles governing their conduct and behaviour towards religious
          Religious freedom and sects
          93. The Special Rapporteur wishes to comment on the phenomenon of sects and
          how they relate to religious freedom.
          page 19
          94. The term ‘ sect” seems to have a pejorative connotation. A sect is
          considered to be different from a religion, and thus not entitled to the same
          protection. This kind of approach is indicative of a propensity to lump
          things together, to discriminate and to exclude, which is hard to justify and
          harder still to excuse, so injurious is it to religious freedom.
          95. Religions cannot be distinguished from sects on the basis of
          quantitative considerations, saying that a sect, unlike a religion, has a
          small number of followers. This is not in fact always the case. It runs
          absolutely counter to the principle of respect and protection for minorities,
          which is upheld by both domestic and international law and morality. Besides,
          following this line of argument, what are the major religions if not
          successful sects?
          96. Nor can it be said that sects, as compared with religions, are typically
          more eccentric in doctrine and practice. There is ample scope here for
          subjectivism and arbitrariness. Any religion includes some elements that are
          irrational and mysterious - even, on occasion, close to spirit-worship. All
          religious beliefs are in essence respectable provided they are sincere and
          held in good faith, and no one has any business to deride, criticize or
          condemn them for what they are - which is not to say that one cannot pass
          judgement on what they do.
          97. Again, one cannot say that sects should not benefit from the protection
          given to religion just because they have had no chance to demonstrate their
          durability. History contains many examples of dissident movements,
          schisms, heresies and reforms that have suddenly given birth to religions or
          religious movements.
          98. All in all, the distinction between a religion and a sect is too
          contrived to be acceptable. A sect that goes beyond simple belief and appeals
          to a divinity or, at the very least, to the supernatural, the transcendant,
          the absolute, or the sacred, enters into the religious sphere and should enjoy
          the protection afforded to religions.
          99. In actual fact, the fairly widespread hostility towards sects can be
          largely explained by the excesses, the breaches of public order and, on
          occasion, the crimes and despicable conduct engaged in by certain groups and
          communities which trick themselves out in religion, and by the tendency among
          the major religions to resist any departure from orthodoxy. The two things
          must be treated separately. Sects, whether their religion is real or a
          fiction, are not above the law. The State must ensure that the law -
          particularly laws on the maintenance of public order and penalizing swindling,
          breach of trust, violence and assaults, failure to assist people in danger,
          gross indecency, procurement, the illegal practice of medicine, abduction and
          corruption of minors, etc. - is respected. In other words, there are many
          legal courses open and they afford plenty of scope for action against false
          pretences and misdirection. Beyond that, however, it is not the business of
          the State or any other group or community to act as the guardian of people's
          consciences and encourage, impose or censure any religious belief or
          E/CN. 4/1997/91
          page 20
          100. It is important to recall here some comments made by the Human Rights
          Committee in its general comment of July 1993 on article 18 of the
          International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee pointed
          out that ‘ the freedom of thought and the freedom of conscience are protected
          equally with the freedom of religion and belief. The fundamental character of
          these freedoms is also reflected in the fact that this provision cannot be
          derogated from, even in time of public emergency” .
          101. The Committee felt that restrictions on displays of religious freedom
          should be applied only for those purposes for which they were prescribed, and
          must be directly related and proportionate to the specific need on which they
          were predicated. They must not be imposed for discriminatory purposes or
          applied in a discriminatory manner. The Committee believed that limitations
          on the freedom to manifest a religion or belief for the purpose of protecting
          morals must be based on principles not deriving exclusively from a single
          102. The problems raised by the question of sects are many and varied, and
          require a great deal of attention, effort and tolerance. This, for example,
          is the case when the philosophy on which a religious community claims to
          operate conflicts with the obligations implicit in belonging to a single
          nation, or with laws on health. Finding a solution requires great tolerance
          so that compromises can be arrived at that reconcile the need for freedom of
          religion with the equal need to retain the religious community concerned as
          part of the nation, and to ensure that the law, or at least something
          equivalent to the law, is respected.
          103. The Special Rapporteur recommends a high-level intergovernmental meeting
          to consider and arrive at a collective approach to sects and religions that
          respects human rights. Within the Commission, too, a study on the phenomena
          of sects and religious freedom is strongly to be recommended. In any event,
          over the coming years the question of sects should be given sustained
          attention, both in matters of definition and delimitation and at the level
          of specific instances and how they are handled.
          C. Other conclusions and recommendations
          104. In the context of setting up a documentation centre in the Centre for
          Human Rights at Geneva, the Special Rapporteur recommends that a department
          on religious freedom and human rights should be set up in order to increase,
          channel and target information on the religious situation throughout the
          world, in accordance with the mandate on religious intolerance, with a view to
          the establishment under the urging and guidance of the Special Rapporteur of
          the databases necessary for more thorough analysis and investigation in the
          area of religious freedom.
          105. The Special Rapporteur wishes to express his gratitude to States for
          their cooperation and the opportunities for fruitful dialogue he has been
          given. He has particularly appreciated the efforts of those Governments which
          have tried to shed light on allegations submitted to them and have initiated
          or responded positively to the suggestion of in situ visits. The replies thus
          provided, and governmental cooperation over visits, have been of valuable
          assistance to the Special Rapporteur in forming an authoritative opinion on
          page 21
          the situation of religious freedom in particular countries. The Special
          Rapporteur is also grateful to those States which have cooperated more fully
          and closely in the recently initiated follow-up procedure to such visits.
          106. Non-governmental organizations are due particular thanks for their
          excellent cooperation; the Special Rapporteur wishes to stress their dynamic
          role in relation to the mandate on religious intolerance. Their contribution
          is of paramount importance both in the day-to-day management of information
          and in the preparations for and conduct of in situ visits. The Special
          Rapporteur pays tribute to the professionalism and dedication to human rights
          shown by international and national non-governmental organizations from both
          North and South. The mandate on religious intolerance is today on an upswing
          as the questions under consideration, the States concerned and the visits made
          all multiply. It is essential to encourage and sustain this upswing, for the
          benefit of human rights in general and religious freedom and tolerance in
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Freedom of Religion, Discrimination