March 22 - April 28, 1999
Palais des Nations, GenevaFranciscans International and Dominicans are concerned about the issue of issue of religious intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion. We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance Mr. Abdelfattah Amor (Tunisia) [E/CN.4/1999/58]. We consider that the problem of religious intolerance is growing and it is at the root of a number of conflicts and ongoing violence in many parts of the world. Religious minorities are increasingly the targets of bigotry, which is often instigated by extremist forces. The lack of political will on the part of governments to put an end to these destructive trends has encouraged groups to persecute and victimize individual and groups.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur considers that mainly the establishment of a culture of tolerance, notably through education can ensure prevention. He also indicates the need to review legislation to create such a culture. Additionally, the Special Rapporteur considers that it is essential that special attention to be given to traditional “mandate fulfillment” activities, namely, in most cases, follow-up action on human rights violations. However, in countries where religious discrimination permeates the laws and institutions including the educational system, where religious discrimination is systemic, and endemic to every aspect of life for minorities, what is required is effective and concerted action on the part of the international community and the governments concerned to remedy the situation.

For example, Pakistan is a country where religious discrimination is inscribed in legislation, which promotes a culture of intolerance. This is found in a Separate Electorate for Religious Minorities and the Blasphemy Laws 295 B and C of the Penal Code. The legislation constitutes a form of systemic discrimination against religious minorities.

In Pakistan, the system of separate electorates on the ground of religion has the effect of denying religious minorities their fundamental right of universal adult franchise. Under the system, a quota of seats is reserved for example, for one religious group, in the national and provincial legislatures. This discriminatory policy among voters on the ground of religion cuts off citizens of the minority religious group from the main stream of national political life. Further, this segregation on the basis of religion denies them the right to have a say directly in the national decision making processes as well as in the framing of national economic, social and cultural policies. The institutionalization of discrimination constitutes a form of religious apartheid that officially restricts the rights of citizens from full participation in their society. We consider that the system of separate electorates in Pakistan is also in violation of Articles 2 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as Articles 25 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The enactment of Blasphemy Laws by states can become a source of victimization and persecution of minorities. In Pakistan, the Blasphemy laws contained in the Penal Code are a tool in the hands of extremist elements to settle personal scores against members of religious minorities. Additionally, the Pakistan Blasphemy Law carries, in some cases, a mandatory death sentence. Further, in the climate of intolerance that is created by such laws, and because of threats brought against the judiciary, there is little chance of obtaining a fair trial under such laws.

Franciscans International and Dominicans recommend that the Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance undertake a follow-up visit to his 1995 visit Pakistan at the earliest possible time to assess the situation of religious minorities and to submit a report at the 56th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

We further recommend that the government of Pakistan seriously consider ways to modify its legislation to conform with international principles contained in the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and other international human rights treaties.
Additionally, we recommend that the government of Pakistan take practical and concrete measures to instill values of religious tolerance in society by removing prejudicial aspects of the syllabus of education.

We are also concerned about the increase of violence against religious minorities in India. The Christian community consists of about 2.5% of India’s 900 million people. There have been reports that violent attacks against them have spread throughout India to more than 25 states in 1998. At least one hundred attacks on Christian groups have been reported, including the rape of nuns and burning of bibles. In the state of Gujurart, more than thirty attacks on Christians by Hindu extremist groups have been reported. The violence has occurred mostly in the north and the west, where Hindu extremist nationalist groups have broader support. According to reports, the violence against the Christian community has been on three fronts: 1. Direct violence against the clergy. Attacks on evangelists and disruption of prayer meetings and iii. Pressure on Christian institutions including schools, colleges, hospitals, and churches, from municipal authorities regarding land permits and charges of encroachment.


Oral, Written or Summary: 
Meeting: 

co99

UN Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-fifth session
Meeting Year: 
1999
Meeting Name: 
UN Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-fifth session