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UN human rights body adopts resolution urging defamation of religion laws

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed a resolution Thursday calling for laws against defamation of religion, in preparation for next month's Durban Review Conference [official website] on racism, discrimination, and xenophobia. The vote was 23-13 in favor of the resolution. Ahead of Thursday's vote, a number of critics of international defamation of religion legislation urged the Human Rights Council to reject the resolution [Reuters report], arguing that the concept has no validity under international law because only individuals, not concepts or beliefs, can be defamed. Several national delegates, including those from Muslim countries, called for passage of the resolution on Wednesday, saying that defamation of religion protection was needed [UNHRC press release] due to rising Islamophobic incidents, persisting manifestations of racism and acts of intolerance including religious profiling.

In December 2007, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against defamation of religion [JURIST report], expressing concern about laws that have led to religious discrimination and profiling since 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive]. Then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf called for the resolution [JURIST report] in the General Assembly in 2006, citing feelings in the Muslim world of "desperation and injustice" in the wake of the Danish publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive]. The UNHRC passed a similar resolution [JURIST report] opposing defamation of Islam in March 2007, with many western nations and advocacy groups standing in opposition.

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