Two topics followed closely by AUNO Geneva were high on the agenda of the concluding part of the UN Human Rights Council's 6th session in December; namely, the situation in Darfur and interreligious issues. As well as extending the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Sudan and on the freedom of religion or belief, five other mandates were extended (health, internally displaced people, housing and terrorism). In terms of expert groups, the group on Darfur was terminated, while a new group on the rights of indigenous peoples was created.
The Situation in Darfur
The discussions about Darfur were generally divided into two camps: on the one hand some states expressed concern at the human rights situation in the Sudan, urged the Sudanese Government to promote and protect the human rights of its people, and to cooperate with the international community in this vein; and on the other hand some states were more supportive of the Government of the Sudan, applauding the Government’s cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and urged the international community to be more supportive of the Sudanese Government in its efforts.
Despite these opposing points of view, a compromise was reached in informal consultations about the future of the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on Sudan and the Expert Group on Darfur: the former’s mandate was expanded and extended for one more year, however the latter’s mandate was terminated. In the main session, the resolutions effecting these decisions were passed without a vote. The Special Rapporteur will have the responsibility to implement the outstanding recommendations made by the Expert Group. It was not discussed how these decisions will affect the workload of the Special Rapporteur.
The disagreements over whether or not a human rights approach to interreligious relations should include a specific emphasis on Islamophobia proved insurmountable. As a result, a consensus was not achieved on the draft resolution on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion, tabled by Portugal on behalf of the EU in the first sitting of the Council’s 6th session. The resolution condemns all forms of intolerance based on religion or belief, condemns any advocacy of religious hatred and extends the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief for three years.
The resolution was put to a vote and was passed with 29 votes in favour and 18 abstentions. In the most part, abstentions came from members states of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). They felt the resolution should have included:
These sensitivities around the relationship between human rights and religious belief point to the importance of further dialogue and cooperation at the international level. As a result, AUNO Geneva is involved in efforts to promote support for a UN Decade for Inter-Religious Dialogue and Coooperation for Peace. Watch this space for more details!
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