Friday, August 12, 2011

Life, Liberty and Blasphemy

United Nations Affirms the Human Right to Blaspheme

Great news here, as the democratized world takes a giant step forward for free speech. The right to speak freely, including blasphemy, is an inalienable human right. Anti-blasphemy laws can no longer be tolerated in civil society. This new statement is legally binding to all 165 members of the UN, including Pakistan, which currently has very severe laws against blasphemy. Here is the unedited version of General Comment No. 34:

General Comment No. 34

Points of note:

Paragraph 2:
Freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person. They are essential for any society. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society. The two freedoms are closely related, with freedom of expression providing the vehicle for the exchange and development of opinions.

Paragraph 3:
Freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realisation of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights.

Paragraph 7:
The obligation to respect freedoms of opinion and expression is binding on every State party as a whole. All branches of the State (executive, legislative and judicial) and other public or governmental authorities, at whatever level – national, regional or local – are in a position to engage the responsibility of the State party. Such responsibility may also be incurred by a State party under some circumstances in respect of acts of semi-State entities. The obligation also requires States parties to ensure that persons are protected from any acts of private persons or entities that would impair the enjoyment of the freedoms of opinion and expression to the extent that these Covenant rights are amenable to application between private persons or entities.

Paragraph 24:
Restrictions must be provided by law. Law may include laws of parliamentary privilege and laws of contempt of court. Since any restriction on freedom of expression constitutes a serious curtailment of human rights, it is not compatible with the Covenant for a restriction to be enshrined in traditional, religious or other such customary law.

Paragraph 48:
Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in the specific circumstances envisaged in article 20, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. Such prohibitions must also comply with the strict requirements of article 19, paragraph 3, as well as such articles as 2, 5, 17, 18 and 26. Thus, for instance, it would be impermissible for any such laws to discriminate in favour of or against one or certain religions or belief systems, or their adherents over another, or religious believers over non-believers. Nor would it be permissible for such prohibitions to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment