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UN rights chief urges halt to violence over anti-Islam film

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged religious and political leaders around the world to encourage an end to violence [press release] that erupted after a US citizen released an anti-Islam film last week. While Pillay said she "fully understand[s] why people wish to protest strongly against" the film, she "utterly condemn[s]" the violence that has resulted from the protests. Violent protests on Tuesday in Benghazi and Egypt led to the death of the US ambassador and three others and injured more than 200 others, while protests on Thursday in Yemen led to the death of one person and injured 15 others. Pillay noted that the best way to deal with the hatred expressed in the film is to ignore it and deny it publicity. However, she also mentioned that Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] allows freedom of expression while prohibiting "propaganda for war" and "advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence." She said these articles could offer states the ability to make regulations that will protect both the rights and reputations of all of their people.

Religious violence and discrimination is a problem worldwide that many countries are trying to eliminate. In July an Indian court sentenced 21 people [JURIST report] to life imprisonment when they were found guilty of murdering a Muslim family in 2002. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] in June sent a letter [JURIST report] to a Bulgarian minister asking her to denounce violence by anti-gay and lesbian groups. In 2007, the US State Department [official website] released a report [JURIST report] criticizing some of its allies' lack of religious freedom and the amount of religious violence that occurs in those countries.

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