Report on the activities of the
IHEU Geneva representatives to the UN Human Rights Council
January 2012 – March 2013
- The team now represent not only IHEU but Center for Inquiry and the British Humanist Association
- Increased size and effectiveness of the team and the promise of some real continuity
- Greater number of issues addressed, and with increasing impact
Having three NGOs represented we have been able to speak on more occasions and on more issues to the plenary of the Council. In the 15 month period we submitted three written statements to the Council and made a total of 28 speeches to the plenary.
We lobbied successfully to improve the wording of three Council resolutions and conducted one parallel event, a seminar on religion, law, democracy and human rights.
In association with the UK National Secular Society we lobbied the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the issues of male genital mutilation and on the inadequate response of the Holy See and of certain national governments to the child abuse scandal, our documentation on the latter leading directly to a strong rebuke from the UN to the United States on its failure to deal adequately with both child abuse itself and the cover-ups by the church hierarchy.
Summary of activities:
Speeches in March 2012:
Disable participation in public life
Freedom of religion or belief in the Islamic world
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
The Istanbul Process and promoting religious tolerance
Speeches in June 2012:
Children accused of witchcraft
Violence against disabled women
Freedom of expression on the internet
Homosexuality and the death penalty
Human Rights and sustainable development
Traditional slavery (e.g in Mauritania)
Speeches in September 2012
Ritual circumcision of male children
The OIC and Islamic violence
Contraception and maternal mortality
Exclusion of women from higher education in Iran
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Video clips and incitement to violence
Speeches in March 2013
The persistence of slavery
The right to apostasy
The Rabat Plan of Action
The fear of witchcraft
Private military organisations
Freedom of expression and the OIC
Statement of a Moroccan atheist
Abandoned children in Eastern Europe
The plight of the Dalits in India
We also hosted a seminar in parallel with the March 2012 session of the Council on “Religion, Law, Democracy and Human Rights” with speeches by Raheel raza, Keith Wood, Sultan Shahin and Leo Igwe.
During the period in question we also submitted written statements on:
The ritual circumcision of male children
Chile marriage, and
Discrimination and violence against non-believers.
We successfully lobbied for the inclusion of a statement regarding the need for good sexual and reproductive health care in the September 2012 resolution on reducing maternal mortality. We were also successful in having references to insults to religion removed from the September resolution against racism. In March we lobbied successfully to have a reference inserted into the resolution on children’s health regarding the negative impact of child marriage. Concerns we expressed regarding poor access for the disabled to the websites of the Human Rights Council and of the High commission led to an invitation from the secretariat and the High Commissioner herself to assist them in improving access. Finally following ten minute’s warning of the opportunity to speak in the debate on Iran we were able to write and deliver a speech which led directly to a first ever admission by the Iranian ambassador that torture does in fact take place in Iran but, he added, it is not government policy.
Our most significant failure was our inability to persuade the European Union to include a reference to discrimination and violence against non-believers in their resolution on freedom of religion or belief, because they didn’t want the OIC member states to vote against. Our view is that appeasement is never right and we will work even harder in future until non-believers are given equal recognition.
You will find the full text of all of our speeches and written statements on the IHEU website and video recordings of all of our speeches to the plenary at: http://www.youtube.com/user/IHEUUnitedNations
I would like to than all of those who participated in the Council sessions with special thanks to Raheel Raza, Hannah Bock, David Cornut, Amelia Cooper, Josephine Macintosh, Leo Igwe, Keith Wood, Michel Godicheau and Elizabeth O’Casey.