Reporters Without Borders said today the UN Human Rights Council was “still badly falling down on its job” after only a year in existence and called for the system of UN special rapporteurs to investigate human rights in individual countries to be maintained.
It noted that the mandates of the rapporteurs on Cuba and Belarus, two of the world’s worst violators of press freedom, had not been renewed in May, and that now Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burundi were trying to get rid of the rapporteurs assigned to them.
Rights were being seriously violated every day in these countries and if they were not closely monitored and exposed by the UN, the Council would be useless, the worldwide press freedom organisation said on the eve of the Council’s sixth session, due to run from 10 to 28 September.
Reporters Without Borders also voiced “very great concern” about efforts by some countries, especially members of the Islamic Conference Organisation (ICO), to stifle freedom of expression in the name of respecting religion. It called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who is due to speak about this during the Council’s session, to refuse to apply a resolution on insulting religion being proposed by Pakistan.
“This is a dangerous resolution because under cover of combating insults to religion, which is a noble cause, it would make it a crime to criticise religion and says freedom of expression can be restricted by law. We fear the consequences, especially in view of laws in some of the countries behind the resolution.
“Why does Islam get special treatment? Followers of other religions are not mentioned in the resolution, whether Christians, Buddhists or Jews. Is it a coincidence that the resolution is sponsored by the ICO, by countries that crack down on believers in other religions?
"We all welcome progress towards tolerance and respect for religion, so imposing on the media a code of conduct that forbids satire, teasing, cartoons, commentary and freedom of expression about it is unacceptable. The media’s job is not to promote tolerance and respect for all religions and their values. Their only duty is to keep the public informed as well and as fully as possible even if this disturbs the beliefs of this or that religious believer.
The Human Rights Council was set up in June 2006 to replace the former Human Rights Commission, which had become totally discredited because of manoeuvres and obstruction by some member-states.