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Freedom of Religion or Belief - An International Law Commentary by Bielefeldt, Heiner; Ghanea, Nazila; Wiener, Michael (21st January 2016)

Part 5 Cross-Cutting Issues, 5.4 Defenders of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Non-Governmental Organizations

From: Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary

Heiner Bielefeldt, Nazila Ghanea, Michael Wiener

Subject(s):
Religion — Freedom of association — Freedom of expression — Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion — Human rights remedies — NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) — UN General Assembly

(p. 581) 5.4.  Defenders of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Non-Governmental Organizations

  1. I.  International Standards 581

  2. II.  Introduction 581

  3. III.  Historical Background 583

  4. IV.  Mandate Practice of UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies 584

    1. 1.  Indispensable Role of Human Rights Defenders 584

    2. 2.  Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organizations 584

    3. 3.  Reprisals 585

    4. 4.  Intimidation of Mandate-Holders 586

    5. 5.  Standard Terms of Reference for Fact-Finding Missions 587

  5. V.  Issues of Interpretation 588

    1. 1.  No Exclusion of Faith-Based Organizations from the Definition 588

    2. 2.  Role and Accreditation of Religious or Belief Actors in the UN Context 589

    3. 3.  Strategies for Implementation 590

I.  International Standards

  • Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/40 (paragraph 17) and General Assembly resolution 64/164 (paragraph 13):

  • ‘Welcomes and encourages the continuing efforts of non-governmental organizations and bodies and groups based on religion or belief to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and further encourages their work in promoting freedom of religion or belief and in highlighting cases of religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution’.

  • Human Rights Council resolutions 22/20 (paragraph 10), 25/12 (paragraph 10), and 28/18 (paragraph 11):

  • ‘Welcomes and encourages the continuing efforts of all actors in society, including civil society organizations, religious communities, national human rights institutions, the media and other actors to promote the implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and further encourages their work in promoting freedom of religion or belief and in highlighting cases of religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution’.

II.  Introduction

Freedom of religion or belief has long depended and continues to depend on advocates and human rights defenders to ensure its normative development and its protection. ‘Human rights defenders’ of freedom of religion or belief come in various forms. They operate at the international, regional, national, and local levels. They work individually or collectively. They operate within charities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), faith-based organizations, interfaith organizations, or community associations. Of course, the distinctions between these types of (p. 582) organizations are not clear-cut and many overlaps exist in practice. Moreover, the fact that human rights defenders operate independently of the Government, certainly does not preclude practical cooperation. Sometimes even persons working in the Government sector undertake initiatives in order to spearhead collaborative and civil society efforts towards advancing freedom of religion or belief. At other times, their efforts are centred in support of the advancement of freedom of religion or belief by the United Nations.1

Representatives of religious or belief communities, in cooperation with a broad variety of NGOs, were active at the time of the adoption of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, during the drafting and adoption of the 1981 Declaration,2 and in positively contributing to the work of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief,3 and in United Nations circles more generally. They have played a crucial role and without their ongoing interest and attention, most of the international standards around freedom of religion or belief would neither have been adopted, nor would there have been sufficient impetus around their implementation and fulfilment. In the words of Special Rapporteur Jahangir, ‘[m]embers of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and groups based on religion or belief play an essential and dynamic role in promoting freedom of religion or belief.’4

Their role has demonstrated that the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief, cannot be left to States alone. This is a very important insight, without which a human rights culture could never flourish. Not only must there be space for organizations and individuals to act independently of governmental policies, such policies themselves also need critical counterparts who constantly remind State agencies of their responsibilities and promises. Human rights defenders thus serve as indispensable counterparts to States in advancing freedom of religion or belief. It is not surprising therefore that their role has been welcomed by numerous freedom of religion or belief institutions and experts, and has included (p. 583) appreciation by the Commission on Human Rights, General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council.5

III.  Historical Background

After a drafting process lasting eleven years, the General Assembly adopted in 1998 the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.6 This is the only international standard exclusively concerned with the role of individuals, groups, and organs of society (henceforth ‘actors’) in promoting and protecting human rights. In its preamble, the Declaration stresses the obligation to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction, inter alia on the basis of religion.7 It does not, however, make any specific mention of individuals or actors who focus on promoting and protecting particular human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of religion or belief. Though it recognizes States as having the ‘prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms’,8 it also recognizes the ‘important role’, ‘valuable work’,9 and the ‘right and the responsibility of individuals, groups and associations’.10

For its part, the 1981 Declaration too makes no mention of ‘human rights defenders’, of the role of religious or belief actors in upholding the human right to freedom of religion or belief and human rights more generally, or the role of other actors that work to promote, protect, and fulfil freedom of religion or belief. The only activities outlined in the 1981 Declaration are those in article 6 squarely relating to manifestation of religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching. This is somewhat unusual considering the significant role of ‘faith actors’ in promoting freedom of religion or belief and rights more broadly, as well as their established and historic contribution to charitable and humanitarian activities in many parts of the world. Whereas not all such activities are to be considered within the scope of the work of human rights defenders, there is clearly an overlap.

Some areas in which religion or belief actors are active at the local, national, regional, and international levels and where they have assisted the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief11 include: interfaith dialogue, educational provision, (p. 584) humanitarian assistance subsequent to disasters, prison visits, care for the elderly, assistance to asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, health services, and other areas of social and economic development.

IV.  Mandate Practice of UN Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies

1.  Indispensable Role of Human Rights Defenders

In 2000, the Commission on Human Rights asked the Secretary-General to establish a mandate on human rights defenders. The Commission’s intention was to give support to the implementation of the Declaration on human rights defenders and also to gather information on the actual situation of human rights defenders around the world.12 This mandate has regularly cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, particularly in joint communications. The level of cooperation and overlap between the mandates can be seen in the fact that during a ten-year period13 the two mandates have sent fifty-eight joint communications in relation to a total of twenty-one countries, with 50 per cent of these communications relating to four countries alone (Viet Nam, Pakistan, China, and Myanmar).

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is regularly assisted by human rights defenders working in this area. The range of such actors is outlined by Special Rapporteur Amor when he states that, in carrying out his mandate, he makes ‘full use of credible and reliable information provided to him, while exercising the necessary impartiality, independence and discretion. In order to do so, he has drawn on a very broad range of governmental and non-governmental sources, of very varied geographical origins, and comprising both organizations and individuals. […] He has taken due account of information from religious groups and denominational communities.’14 Their work may include collecting and disseminating information on violations, supporting victims of violations, acting to secure accountability and end impunity, improving policy in these areas, assisting in the implementation of relevant treaty provisions, or contributing to education and training.15 Human rights defenders also play a crucial role in any follow-up activities of Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures.

2.  Government-Organized Non-Governmental Organizations

The increasing political importance of civil society organizations working in human rights has caused some Governments to establish so-called ‘Government-organized non-governmental organizations’ (GONGOs). One may say, with some irony, that the very existence of GONGOs bears testimony to the significant role that NGOs play in international and domestic political arenas. However, in reality GONGOs create (p. 585) enormous problems. They may stifle independent voices, erode trust in NGOs, and impede meaningful cooperation at the multilateral level. These problems have been raised by States in the Commission on Human Rights, Sub-Commission, and General Assembly.16

The issue of GONGOs was also alluded to by Special Rapporteur Jahangir, who drew attention to the need to more closely monitor ‘preventive actions and campaigns that are conducted throughout the country by private initiatives or Government-sponsored organizations’.17 The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, also noted with concern that GONGOs have often monopolized the space in multilateral arenas meant for independent associations, e.g. by making statements and organizing side-events ‘in support of States’ policies (e.g. GONGOs from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Sudan)’.18

3.  Reprisals

Regrettably, human rights defenders are often victims of reprisals by States. In fact, the international community has increasingly been seized by the risk of ‘reprisals’, i.e. threats or revenge attacks on persons who give evidence to mandate-holders or meet with them in relation to the Special Procedures carrying out their mandates. For example, Special Rapporteur Amor was disturbed by reprisals against persons that had met with him during his country visit to Viet Nam in 1998, and drew attention to the fact that he had been prevented from meeting some individuals and groups.19 Regarding his visit to China in 1994, an NGO (the International Fellowship for Reconciliation) reported that the Government of the People’s Republic of China did not allow unrestricted access to the Special Rapporteur during his visit to Tibet. Five people reported that they were unable to contact Amor because ‘the team was attended by security forces, and its whereabouts were concealed from the public’. Monks from certain monasteries and some students were not even allowed in the centre of Lhasa during his visit. Five days after Amor’s visit, ‘seven monks from the Sang-ngang Khang monastery, who we understand had wished to contact the Special Rapporteur, were arrested when they protested against political interference in their monastery’.20 The written NGO statement goes on to comment that ‘[s]uch interference in the work of the Special Rapporteur prevents him from ascertaining the facts of the situation and negates the benefit of extending an invitation to him’.21 Amor had to follow up with an urgent appeal concerning a high-ranking Tibetan monk, whom the Special Rapporteur had consulted during the mission to China but who was allegedly held incommunicado afterwards, in spite of the commitment made by the Chinese authorities that he would not suffer in any way as a result of his interview.22

Special Rapporteur Bielefeldt was also seriously hampered in his country mission to Viet Nam in 2014 and reported at the press conference in Hanoi that he had ‘received credible information that some individuals with whom [he] wanted to meet had been (p. 586) under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police. Even those who successfully met with [him] were not free from a certain degree of police surveillance or questioning.’23 Bielefeldt lamented these governmental interferences as constituting blatant violations of the terms of reference for fact-finding missions of Special Procedures, since unrestricted communication with civil society actors is critical to their very raison d’être.

4.  Intimidation of Mandate-Holders

It should be noted in passing that the Special Procedures mandate-holders themselves have at times also faced intimidation and challenges to their impartiality in the conduct of mandate activities. For example, Special Rapporteurs or members of Commissions of Inquiry were reprimanded for ‘offensive reference to Islam and the Holy Qur’an’,24 faced domestic lawsuits for the alleged use of defamatory language in an interview (with the plaintiffs seeking damages of US$112 million),25 were prevented from travelling to Geneva,26 or threatened during their stay in Geneva.27

Furthermore, Special Rapporteur Jahangir was placed under house arrest for almost two weeks in Pakistan on the grounds that there was ‘credible information that [she] will deliver inflammatory speeches for instigating the general public’.28 With regard to her mission to Sri Lanka in 2005, Special Rapporteur Jahangir deplored ‘the fact that after her (p. 587) visit attempts were made by individuals and certain groups to intimidate and pressurize her, possibly to influence her conclusions. She also received a communication from one group challenging her impartiality. She regrets that the content of this communication was misleading and mischievous’.29

5.  Standard Terms of Reference for Fact-Finding Missions

Though the challenges of reprisals against human rights defenders and intimidation against Special Procedures mandate-holders are distinct matters, they both restrict the possibility for international scrutiny of freedom of religion or belief around the world.

The above-mentioned examples contrast sharply with the Standard Terms of Reference for Fact-Finding Missions, which hold that during their missions the Special Rapporteurs and their accompanying staff ‘should be given the following guarantees and facilities by the Government that invited them to visit its country: (a) Freedom of movement in the whole country, including facilitation of transport, in particular to restricted areas; (b) Freedom of inquiry, in particular as regards: […] (iii) Contacts with representatives of non-governmental organizations, other private institutions and the media; (iv) Confidential and unsupervised contact with witnesses and other private persons, including persons deprived of their liberty, considered necessary to fulfil the mandate of the special rapporteur; […] (c) Assurance by the Government that no persons, official or private individuals who have been in contact with the special rapporteur/representative in relation to the mandate will for this reason suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings; (d) Appropriate security arrangements without, however, restricting the freedom of movement and inquiry referred to above; […]’.30

Special Rapporteur Jahangir recalled that these terms of reference provide ‘assurance by the Government that no persons, official or private individuals who have been in contact with the special rapporteur/representative in relation to the mandate will for this reason suffer threats, harassment or punishment or be subjected to judicial proceedings’. However, she also noted the numerous cases of reprisals against those cooperating with UN human rights bodies, including with her mandate. She stressed that her mandate would ‘remain vigilant’ in its efforts to protect individuals who cooperate. She called on ‘the judiciary, the media and civil society’31 to also play its role in investigating and scrutinizing cases of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders. The NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in both New York32 and Geneva,33 which act as sub-committees of the Special Committee on Human Rights of the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO), have also played an important role in this area.

(p. 588) It has not only been cooperation with Special Procedures—as detailed in the annual reports by the Secretary-General—that have led to acts of intimidation and reprisals, but also cooperation with the OHCHR, including its field presences, the Human Rights Council, human rights Treaty Bodies, the UPR mechanism, Commissions of Inquiry, and human rights components of United Nations peace missions.34 With regard to Treaty Bodies, in June 2015, the chairpersons of the ten human rights expert committees endorsed the San José Guidelines against intimidation or reprisals.35 They provide useful guidance for the operational practice, including the role of rapporteurs in the Treaty Bodies or focal points on intimidation or reprisals, as well as preventive and follow-up measures.

V.  Issues of Interpretation

1.  No Exclusion of Faith-Based Organizations from the Definition

Although there are many human rights arenas in which religious or belief actors have contributed and continue to contribute, there seems to be a certain reluctance to refer to such actors as ‘human rights defenders’. This may originate from a stereotypical bifurcation of religious organizations allegedly committed to charity work, on the one hand, and (‘secular’) civil society organizations operating as critical counterparts to the Government, on the other. However, such a bifurcation does not hold given the reality of many overlaps. Hence, human rights defenders are to be identified with what they actually do, and consideration of what some religious or belief actors do suggests that the label ‘human rights defender’ would indeed be an appropriate description for them. The definition of a ‘human rights defender’ is a person who, individually or with others, acts to promote or protect human rights, for example through communicating with others, disseminating information, conducting advocacy activities, complaining or submitting proposals, and organizing peaceful assembly. Many religious or belief actors are active in these arenas the world over.

It is interesting to note that in setting up a new Special Procedures mandate on freedom of peaceful assembly and association in 2010, the Human Rights Council made specific mention of freedom of association in relation to minority or dissenting religious beliefs. Human Rights Council resolution 15/21 reaffirms ‘that exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association free of restrictions, subject only to the limitations permitted by international law, in particular international human rights law, is indispensable to the full enjoyment of these rights, particularly where individuals may espouse minority or dissenting religious or political beliefs’.36 The resolution also notes that ‘everyone has the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and that no one may be compelled to belong to an association’ as well as stresses ‘the importance of the rights to (p. 589) freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights’.37

2.  Role and Accreditation of Religious or Belief Actors in the UN Context

The 1981 Declaration’s primary focus is on the role of the State to not discriminate on grounds of religion or belief and to ‘take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief’ (article 4(1)). At the same time, the Declaration hints at the role of religious or belief actors in upholding freedom of religion or belief and, more generally, human rights. It does so in recognizing in its article 6 that freedom of religion or belief includes the freedom ‘(b) To establish and maintain appropriate charitable or humanitarian institutions’ and ‘(f) To solicit and receive voluntary financial and other contributions from individuals and institutions’.

Some of these contributions and institutions may be utilized for upholding freedom of religion or belief or human rights in general. Their role, however, is more significant than this, not least when considering how religion is so often exploited as a grounds for violating numerous rights, for example against women, or relating to the right to life, and in generating conflicts. The role of such actors—religious or belief NGOs and INGOs—in assisting the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of freedom of religion or belief has proven critical to the work of the Special Procedures. Indeed, Special Rapporteur Amor paid tribute to the ‘paramount importance’ of NGOs and INGOs from both North and South, their professionalism and dedication, their excellent cooperation, ‘dynamic role’ and contribution to the mandate ‘both in the day-to-day management of information and in the preparations for and conduct of in situ visits’.38 Their ‘serious’ partnership with the mandate advanced and enriched its work and assisted the realization of its objectives.39 Special Rapporteur d’Almeida Ribeiro similarly expressed appreciation for the ‘detailed information’ provided by NGOs40 and Special Rapporteur Jahangir was grateful for ‘the information she received from NGOs as well as for their input during country visits, highlighting cases of religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution’ as well as their possible role in ensuring an effective follow-up to communications and recommendations in country reports.41

Yet, the accreditation process of NGOs in the context of UN conferences may also lead to controversies about faith-based civil society organizations which present dissenting views in comparison to the official approach of the religion they appear to be affiliated with. For example, the accreditation to the Fourth World Conference on Women of four NGOs whose name included the term ‘Catholic’ was objected to by the Holy See with the argument that the organizational listings were misleading since the NGOs publicly maintained ‘positions contrary to those held by the Catholic Church, particularly on (p. 590) the issue of the right to abortion’.42 Whereas the Holy See also argued that ‘[a]ny group claiming to speak for Catholics, while at the same time assuming and promoting positions totally contrary to the Catholic Church’s moral teaching, cannot be recognized as Catholic’, the four NGOs were ultimately accredited to the Fourth World Conference on Women, which illustrates the reluctance of the United Nations to be dragged into adjudicating on religious branding.43 However, there are also a number of cases where the accreditation of NGOs has been denied by the members of the ECOSOC Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, sometimes due to concerns about religious issues or where at least the public perception focuses on the religious dimension of objections by States.44

3.  Strategies for Implementation

In his 2001 Nobel Lecture, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized that in the twenty-first century ‘the mission of the United Nations will be defined by a new, more profound, awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion’, arguing that this ‘will require us to look beyond the framework of States, and beneath the surface of nations or communities.’45 NGOs may lend assistance to freedom of religion or belief through their reporting, media and advocacy work, lobbying, monitoring (for example in the UPR and Treaty Bodies), and cooperation with Special Rapporteurs in relation to this freedom. The latter includes cooperating with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief during country visits. Such NGOs may work at the local, national, regional, or international level, or a combination of these. They may be ‘single issue NGOs’ focused only on freedom of religion or belief—even only in relation to a particular religious or belief community, or they may deal with this freedom within a broader spectrum of rights and issues. As recognized by Special Rapporteur Amor, some of these NGOs ‘represent a religion or a belief, while others have a general mandate relating to human rights or a specific mandate relating to freedom of religion or belief’.46 They may collaborate at a variety of levels, formally and informally, individually and collaboratively, and through a range of measures, for example institutionally through the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in New York and Geneva, and even financially ‘for the specific purpose of supporting the cause of freedom of religion or belief’.47 Yet Mary Ann Glendon rightly pointed to the challenge for defenders of religious freedom ‘to convince people of the importance of protecting rights that they do not personally experience as under threat’, in view of individualizing trends in religious (p. 591) views and practices along with a likely decline of concern about the role of religion in public life and its full exercise.48

There is often a critique of NGOs who fail to work on freedom of religion or belief on a non-discriminatory basis. In the report on her country mission to Sri Lanka, Special Rapporteur Jahangir noted that she ‘understands from different testimonies and statements she heard during her visit that some religious communities or religiously affiliated non-governmental organizations have demonstrated behaviour that, while not constituting per se violations of the freedom of religion of others, were very disrespectful and dishonest vis-à-vis the local population they were addressing. A number of such organizations have proved culturally insensitive and have lacked respect for the beliefs of Sri Lankans.’49

Of course, selective or discriminatory behaviours, whether by faith-based or other NGOs, may amount to negligence of the rights of others. There is, however, a distinction that may be drawn between on the one hand representative and specialist NGOs who are only authorized to represent a particular religious community—whether in terms of its views on issues such as peace, disarmament, and duties across borders—or to speak out to advocate for the rights of co-believers facing human rights violations on the basis of information access and channels; and on the other hand NGOs that intentionally refuse to acknowledge the rights of others or even use their resources to misrepresent others or to discriminate in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and life-saving medication.50 The discrimination that stems from the latter category of NGOs may draw from the reluctance of some traditional religious organizations to be inclusive, or it may be due to the scepticism by some secular NGOs about freedom of religion or belief constituting a human right of equal validity to others. Such actors may abuse the rights and freedoms of others and their equality with a selective understanding and application of this right, even to the extent of making its selective application discriminatory. However, the former set of NGOs are not in this category. They specialize in representing a particular advocacy cause and may, for example, have specialist knowledge about issues and violations related to a particular community. They do not actively exclude others, but their mission and knowledge base is in relation to a particular case, which is certainly legitimate. Accusing the various NGOs across this wide range—both the former ‘specialist’ category and the latter ‘discrimination’ category—as being ‘clientelist’ is a crude over-simplification, to say the least. It is true that not all faith-based or other NGOs have fully embraced the implications of the broad spectrum of freedom of religion or belief, but a number have certainly done so over many decades, and indeed have played an instrumental role in the emergence, enshrining, and flourishing of this freedom.

It is not only individuals and NGOs who act to uphold freedom of religion or belief. National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs, ideally in compliance with the Paris Principles51), Ombudspersons, and faith-based organizations also have a significant role to play. Like in the case of NGOs, a selective or reluctant embrace of freedom of religion (p. 592) or belief by NHRIs can lead to distortions of this right. The country visits of Special Rapporteurs and the engagement of Ombudspersons and NHRIs in UN human rights mechanisms more generally, have shown a broad variety of different activities of NHRIs in the area of freedom of religion or belief, ranging from systematic commitment and ad hoc activities to a virtual absence of any activities. The Rabat Plan of Action calls upon States to enlarge NHRIs’ competencies in fostering social dialogue and accepting complaints about incidents of incitement to hatred, while stressing that ‘new adapted guidelines, tests and good practices are needed so as to avoid arbitrary practices and improve international coherence’.52 The Rabat Plan of Action also recommends NHRIs and NGOs to ‘create and support mechanisms and dialogues to foster intercultural and interreligious understanding and learning’.53

The emergence of NGO umbrella platforms on freedom of religion or belief, and the involvement of civil society on common objectives, illustrate how broader coalitions can and should counteract the risk of selective perspectives. It is hoped that in future more and more faith-based and other NGOs will join forces where appropriate in order to defend freedom of religion or belief for all, everywhere.

Footnotes:

1  For examples of a range of defenders of freedom of religion or belief over the decades, we would like to particularly note the contributions in the UN context of the following individuals and organizations: Diane Ala’i of the Bahá’í International Community and Chair of the NGO Sub-Committee on Freedom of Religion and Belief (Geneva); Zainah Anwar of Musawah; Rachel Brett of the Quaker UN Office; Derek Brett of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation; Matt Cherry of the International Humanist and Ethical Union; Ganoune Diop of the International Religious Liberty Association; Ralston Deffenbaugh of the Lutheran World Federation; Willy Fautré of Human Rights Without Frontiers International; John Kinahan of Forum 18 News Service; Lena Larsen of the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief; Zibar Mir-Hosseini of Musawah; Michael Roan of the Tandem Project; and John B. Taylor of the International Association for Religious Freedom. It goes without saying that this list is far from exhaustive.

2  A/56/253, para 151 (‘The Special Rapporteur wishes to emphasize the essential role of non-governmental organizations, which have continued their efforts, devoted initially to the elaboration and adoption of the Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, to promote observance of that Declaration, making an invaluable contribution to the fulfilment of the mandate relating to freedom of religion and belief’).

3  For example, Special Rapporteur Jahangir, on her country visit to Nigeria (E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.2, para 7), noted that she ‘is particularly grateful for the very positive attitude that representatives of religious groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) demonstrated during the visit. In this regard, she was impressed by the level of analysis and research that is carried out by NGOs on human rights issues and, in particular, on those related to her mandate. She considers the high quality and dynamism of Nigerian NGOs constitute an indisputable advantage, including for the Government, in the realization of the measures that will be needed to bring the country’s religious communities to an acceptable level of harmony.’ See also Special Rapporteur Amor’s acknowledgement in A/56/253, paras 153–155.

4  A/HRC/6/5, para 47.

5  For example, see A/56/253, para 152: ‘The General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights have applauded this contribution [by NGOs] in their respective resolutions (55/97 and 2001/42), and have welcomed and encouraged the continuing efforts of non-governmental organizations and religious bodies and groups to promote the implementation of the Declaration, to foster freedom of religion and belief and to highlight cases of religious intolerance, discrimination and persecution.’

6  Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (adopted 9 December 1998) A/RES/53/144, annex.

7  Ibid., preambular para 3.

8  Ibid., preambular para 7. See also article 2: ‘Each State has a primary responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such steps as may be necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually and in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice.’

9  Ibid., preambular para 4.

10  Ibid., preambular para 8.

11  See Michael Wiener, Das Mandat des UN-Sonderberichterstatters über Religions- oder Weltanschauungsfreiheit (Peter Lang 2007) 23–6.

12  See Commission on Human Rights resolution 2000/61 (E/CN.4/RES/2000/61), establishing the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders (whose title was changed by Human Rights Council resolution 7/8 (A/HRC/RES/7/8) of 27 March 2008 to ‘Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders’).

13  Joint communications sent between 21 October 2004 and 20 October 2014 by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

14  E/CN.4/1995/91, p 7.

15  ‘Who Is a Defender?’ (OHCHR, 2015) <www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/Defender.aspx#ftn1> accessed 22 September 2015.

16  See e.g. E/CN.4/1995/SR.56, para 70; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/SR.30, para 28; A/C.3/69/SR.31, para 13.

17  E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.4, para 113.

18  A/69/365, para 82.

19  E/CN.4/1999/58/Add.2, paras 3–6; E/CN.4/1999/27, paras 11 and 14.

20  E/CN.4/1995/NGO/25, para 1.

21  Ibid.

22  E/CN.4/1996/95, para 40. See also E/CN.4/1999/58, para 47; A/52/477, para 26; A/54/386, para 87; E/CN.4/1998/57, para 20; E/CN.4/1999/58, para 47; A/52/477, para 26; and A/54/386, para 87.

23  ‘Press Statement on the Visit to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief’ (OHCHR, 31 July 2014) <www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14914> accessed 22 September 2015. See also A/HRC/28/66/Add.2, paras 3–4, 83(s), and 84(c); A/HRC/28/85, p 135 (case VNM 11/2014); A/HRC/30/29, paras 41–43.

24  With regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, Maurice Glèlè-Ahanhanzo (E/CN.4/1997/71, para 27), the Commission on Human Rights decided in E/CN.4/DEC/1997/125, ‘without a vote, to express its indignation and protest at the content of such an offensive reference to Islam and the Holy Qur’an’, also asking ‘the Special Rapporteur to take corrective action in response to the present decision’. This led to the issuing of a Corrigendum to the report (E/CN.4/1997/71/Corr.1), which deleted the impugned sentence.

25  Concerning the case of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, see Difference Relating to Immunity from Legal Process of a Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights (International Court of Justice, Advisory Opinion of 29 April 1999) ICJ Rep 1999, p 62.

26  With regard to the case of the Sub-Commission’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and youth, Dumitru Mazilu, see Applicability of Article VI, Section 22, of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations (International Court of Justice, Advisory Opinion of 15 December 1989) ICJ Rep 1989, p 177.

27  On 23 June 2015, the President of the Human Rights Council informed the Council that members of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea had been subject to threats and intimidation since their arrival in Geneva. Whereas it was acceptable that there were substantial disagreement with the work of the Commission, he stressed that it was totally unacceptable for the Commission members to be subjected to threats and intimidation (see ‘Human Rights Council Discusses the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus and Eritrea’ (OHCHR, 23 June 2015) <www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16134> accessed 22 September 2015).

28  See the text of the detention order served on Asma Jahangir on 3 November 2007 (‘UN Special Rapporteur Released from House Arrest on Friday 16 November 2007’ (Freedom without Frontiers, 2007) <www.freedomwithoutfrontiers.com/html/aj_detention.html> accessed 22 September 2015). On 5 November 2007, the Secretary-General expressed ‘his strong dismay at the detention of hundreds of human rights and opposition activists, including the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief’ and urged ‘the Pakistan authorities to immediately release those detained’ (‘Secretary-General Expresses Strong Dismay at Detention in Pakistan of Human Rights, Opposition Activists, Including UN Special Rapporteur’ (UN, 5 November 2007) <www.un.org/press/en/2007/sgsm11260.doc.htm> accessed 22 September 2015). Asma Jahangir was released from house arrest on 16 November 2007, and could undertake her country mission to Angola as scheduled (20–27 November 2007).

29  E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.3, para 11 (which implicitly refers to a letter sent by the Joint Committee of Buddhist Organizations, see Janaka Perera, ‘UN Special Rapporteur Accused of Anti-Buddhist Bias’ (The Buddhist Channel, 6 June 2005) <www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=1,1286,0,0,1,0> accessed 22 September 2015). See also Wiener, Das Mandat des UN-Sonderberichterstatters über Religions- oder Weltanschauungsfreiheit, 214–16.

30  Standard Terms of Reference for Fact Finding Missions by Special Rapporteurs/Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/1998/45, appendix V.

31  A/HRC/6/5, para 48.

32  See ‘About’ (NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2015) <www.unforb.wordpress.com/about> accessed 22 September 2015.

33  See ‘Geneva’ (NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, 2015) <www.unforb.wordpress.com/geneva/> accessed 22 September 2015.

34  E/CN.4/1993/38; E/CN.4/1994/52; E/CN.4/1995/53; E/CN.4/1996/57; E/CN.4/1997/27; E/CN.4/1998/57; E/CN.4/1999/27; E/CN.4/2000/101; E/CN.4/2001/34; E/CN.4/2002/36; E/CN.4/2003/34; E/CN.4/2004/29; E/CN.4/2005/31; E/CN.4/2006/30; A/HRC/4/58; A/HRC/7/45; A/HRC/10/36; A/HRC/14/19; A/HRC/18/19; A/HRC/21/18; A/HRC/24/29; A/HRC/27/38; A/HRC/30/29.

35  HRI/MC/2015/6. See also ‘Leading UN Human Rights Experts Issue Call over Reprisals Chairs of the 10 UN Treaty Bodies Use Annual Meeting in Costa Rica to Endorse Key Protection and Prevention Guidelines’ (OHCHR, 26 June 2015) <www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16154> accessed 22 September 2015.

36  A/HRC/RES/15/21, preambular para 8.

37  Ibid., preambular paras 5 and 6.

38  E/CN.4/1997/91, para 106.

39  A/56/253, para 156.

40  E/CN.4/1993/62, para 73: ‘The Special Rapporteur was also very pleased and grateful to note the continued cooperation extended to him by non-governmental organizations during the period under review. The detailed information they have provided has been of considerable assistance to him in carrying out his mandate. The information gathered by the Special Rapporteur attests to the continued interest on the part of the international community in problems of religious intolerance and discrimination and the genuine efforts of many Governments to restrict them.’

41  A/HRC/6/5, para 47.

42  E/CN.6/1995/14, chapter VIII, para 14.

43  Ibid. See also Christopher McCrudden, ‘Faith-Based Non-Governmental Organizations in the Public Square’ in Malcolm D. Evans, Peter Petkoff, and Julian Rivers (eds), Changing Nature of Religious Rights under International Law (OUP 2015) 205–6.

44  See Evelyn L. Bush, ‘Discipline and Resistance in Diplomacy: Religion and the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS’ in Janie Leatherman (ed), Discipline and Punishment in Global Politics: Illusions of Control (Palgrave Macmillan 2008) 176.

45  Kofi Annan, ‘?“We Can Love What We Are, without Hating What—and Who—We Are Not,” Secretary-General Says in Nobel Lecture’ (UN, 10 December 2001) <www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2001/sgsm8071.doc.htm> accessed 22 September 2015. See also Michael Wiener, ‘Engaging with Religious Communities’, (2012) 1 (1) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 37.

46  A/56/253, para 153.

47  Ibid., para 155.

48  Mary Ann Glendon, ‘Is Religious Freedom an “Orphaned” Right?’ in Malcolm D. Evans, Peter Petkoff, and Julian Rivers (eds), Changing Nature of Religious Rights under International Law (OUP 2015) 4.

49  E/CN.4/2006/5/Add.3, para 50.

51  Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions (The Paris Principles), A/RES/48/134, annex.

52  Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, A/HRC/22/17/Add.4, annex, appendix, para 46.

53  A/HRC/22/17/Add.4, annex, appendix, para 56.