Islamic Demands Have Fatally Wounded UN Human Rights Council

Alarm has been raised over a resolution passed at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that threatens to restrict free speech. A bloc of Islamic countries, acting in concert with Cuba, Russia and China, have called on UN member states to introduce legislation outlawing defamation of religion - particularly Islam.

On Tuesday the UNHRC saw these same Islamic nations demanding that the Netherlands urgently enact ‘religious defamation’ laws in order to prosecute MP Geert Wilders whose controversial film, Fitna, is critical of the Koran.

At a meeting today in Brussels, attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society warned that: "The UNHRC is now totally dominated by the Organisation of Islamic Conference countries which are using it to try to restrict criticism and free examination of Islam. Western countries seem paralysed in the face of this onslaught and the UNHRC has been rendered not only ineffective, but counterproductive. It is now dominated by countries with a highly ambiguous attitude to the charter of Universal Human Rights and instead wants to introduce a sharia-compliant version called The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam."

Mr Wood said the UNHRC had taken over from another UN organisation, a Commission on Human Rights, which had been scrapped because of this same problem. "It seems the only way out of this is to scrap the Human Rights Council and start again with a Human Rights body that admits only those liberal democracies that comply with the Universal Declaration."

Keith Porteous Wood was speaking at a colloquium organised jointly by the European Commission and the European Humanist Federation. He was also speaking as an International representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

16 April 2008