Category Archives: freedom of religion

Refugee Crisis Reaches New Peak amid Ongoing Conflicts, Islamophobic Policies

Syrian refugees arrive in Greece
Credit: Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, more than 65 million people were estimated to be refugees or internally displaced persons  – the highest number in history. [World Economic Forum] Many of the migrants who are fleeing their countries are unable to permanently resettle for a number of reasons, including the global underfunding of refugee support programs and national policies motivated by Islamophobia or isolationism. See Amnesty International, Refugees & Asylum. [Slate] Migrants face dangerous conditions and human rights abuses both during travel and once they reach host countries. Thousands of migrants have drowned while attempting to reach Europe by sea and the conditions of detention in more common refugee destinations may include overcrowding and a failure to provide basic necessities. [Independent; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International]

Moreover, recent measures enacted by some governments are perpetuating Islamophobia and complicating travel or resettlement for those from Muslim-majority countries. [New York Times: Muslim; IJRC: Protests] An executive order recently implemented in the United States specifically targets migrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries, temporarily prohibiting their entry into the United States. [IJRC: Protests]  The International Justice Resource Center, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and with the support of dozens of other organizations, yesterday submitted a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking it to review this order in a public hearing. Migrants and refugees are protected against discrimination, among other human rights violations, under international law. Read more

ECtHR: Mandatory Co-ed Swim Class Does Not Violate Religious Freedom

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: David Betzinger/ Council of Europe

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held last week that requiring two Muslim girls below the age of puberty to participate in a school’s compulsory mixed gender swim class did not violate their parents’ right to religious freedom under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). See ECtHR, Osmanoǧlu and Kocabaş v. Switzerland, no. 29086/12, Judgment of 10 January 2017. In its January 10th decision, the ECtHR heavily deferred to the State’s policy and findings in prior national proceedings, particularly with regard to Switzerland’s conclusion that the compulsory swim course was necessary for the social integration of students of foreign origin and equality between the sexes. In weighing the interests of the State and the parents, the Court noted that significant accommodations – such as full-body swimsuits – were available to mitigate any negative impact on the parents’ freedom of religion. See id. The ECtHR ruling is the first to address the narrow issue of religious freedom protections within the context of a compulsory school sporting activity requiring the exposure of the body. [Huffington Post] Read more

News Clips- November 25, 2016

United Nations Official Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: ÒOrange the World: Raise Money to end Violence against WomenÓ

The United Nations Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 21, 2016
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Civil Society

  • Following protests over the weekend and statements from the United Nations, Turkey withdrew a bill that would have granted amnesty to some perpetrators of child sexual assault. [Guardian]
  • Thousands of protesters in Malaysia demonstrated against the prime minister, resulting in 15 arrests. [Washington Post]
  • Authorities have started using tear gas and water cannons against refugee protesters in Bulgaria. [Al Jazeera]
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said this week that travel bans on human rights defenders in Egypt are politically motivated. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • Chinese authorities have ordered all residents of Xinjiang, the northwest province of the country that is home to millions of the Uighur minority, to turn in their passports. [Al Jazeera]
  • The UN Human Rights Committee found that Sri Lanka unlawfully detained and tortured a Canadian citizen and that the State is obligated to pay him compensation. [Jurist]
  • Protesters continued to demonstrate in the United States against the construction of a pipeline through land sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. [Washington Post]

Freedom of Expression


Women’s Rights

International Criminal Law

  • The United States extradited Azra Basic to Bosnia where she is wanted for war crimes. [NY Times]
  • Two men suspected of genocide were charged before a Rwandan court this week for genocide, among other charges. [New Times]
  • Following the decisions of Gambia, South Africa, and Burundi to leave the International Criminal Court, the ICC’s prosecutor called the decisions to leave “a regression for the continent.” [Washington Post]

UN Commission Urges Security Council Referral of Eritrea to ICC

Press briefing by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the State of Eritrea, Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth

UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the State of Eritrea
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has again called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for adjudication of possible crimes against humanity committed by State officials since 1991. Speaking on behalf of the former three-member commission, whose mandate ended in June 2016, Sheila Keetharuth announced to the UN General Assembly on October 28 that the Commission found significant human rights violations intended to maintain the political leaders’ power, no rule of law, a decimated civil society, and a lack of accountability for abuses. [OHCHR Press Release] Among other recommendations, the Commission of Inquiry urged the African Union to create a mechanism for accountability and encouraged UN Member States to accept Eritrean migrants, emphasizing that returning to Eritrea could result in the detention and torture of those individuals. [OHCHR Press Release]

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