By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber July 12, 2023 4:09 PM GMT+5
- Resolution passes despite Western opposition
- U.S. says its concerns ‘not taken seriously’
- Pakistan accuses West of ‘lip service’
GENEVA, July 12 (Reuters) – The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday approved a disputed resolution on religious hatred in the wake of the burning of a Koran in Sweden, prompting concern by Western states who say it challenges long-held practices in rights protection.
The resolution, introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), calls for the U.N. rights chief to publish a report on religious hatred and for states to review their laws and plug gaps that may “impede the prevention and prosecution of acts and advocacy of religious hatred.”
It was strongly opposed by the United States and the European Union, who say it conflicts with their view on human rights and freedom of expression. While condemning the burning of the Koran, they argued the OIC initiative was designed to safeguard religious symbols rather than human rights.
The vote’s outcome marks a major defeat for Western countries at a time when the OIC has unprecedented clout in the council, the only body made up of governments to protect human rights worldwide.
Twenty-eight countries voted in favour, 12 voted against, and seven countries abstained. Representatives of some countries clapped after the resolution passed.
Marc Limon, director of the Geneva-based Universal Rights Group, said the outcome showed “the West is in full retreat at the Human Rights Council.”
“They’re increasingly losing support and losing the argument,” he said.
Michele Taylor, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council, said the United States’ concerns about the initiative “were not taken seriously.”
“I believe with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution,” she said.
After the vote, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Geneva, Khalil Hasmi, accused the West of “lip service” to their commitment to prevent religious hatred.
“The opposition of a few in the room has emanated from their unwillingness to condemn the public desecration of the Holy Koran or any other religious book,” he said.
“They lack political, legal and moral courage to condemn this act, and it was the minimum that the Council could have expected from them.”
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Emma Farge; Editing by Toby Chopra and Conor Humphries