Can the U.N. Human Rights Council get any worse?

Last Thursday, Passport explained why the U.N. Human Rights Council is now officially a joke. But that was a day before the council passed a decidedly unfunny resolution that condemns “defamation of religion.” It was sponsored—surprise, surprise—by Pakistan, on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The resolution decries defamation of religion in ...

602767_070338_unhrc5.jpg
602767_070338_unhrc5.jpg

Last Thursday, Passport explained why the U.N. Human Rights Council is now officially a joke. But that was a day before the council passed a decidedly unfunny resolution that condemns "defamation of religion." It was sponsored—surprise, surprise—by Pakistan, on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The resolution decries defamation of religion in general, but Islam is the only religion it mentions explicitly. The resolution also states that freedom of expression "should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations as provided by law."

That's rich. Some of the OIC's members—Saudi Arabia comes to mind—are some of the world's worst offenders when it comes to anti-Semitic hate speech. Will they be cracking down when their own citizens defame Jews? Additionally, anti-blasphemy laws have been abused in Pakistan to settle property and business disputes.

It's no surprise that authoritarian countries like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia would be eager to establish the precedent, even in a laughingstock of a forum like the U.N. Human Rights Council, that "defamation" should be prohibited by law. But what are democracies like the Philippines, South Africa, and Mexico doing voting in favor?

Last Thursday, Passport explained why the U.N. Human Rights Council is now officially a joke. But that was a day before the council passed a decidedly unfunny resolution that condemns “defamation of religion.” It was sponsored—surprise, surprise—by Pakistan, on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The resolution decries defamation of religion in general, but Islam is the only religion it mentions explicitly. The resolution also states that freedom of expression “should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations as provided by law.”

That’s rich. Some of the OIC’s members—Saudi Arabia comes to mind—are some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to anti-Semitic hate speech. Will they be cracking down when their own citizens defame Jews? Additionally, anti-blasphemy laws have been abused in Pakistan to settle property and business disputes.

It’s no surprise that authoritarian countries like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia would be eager to establish the precedent, even in a laughingstock of a forum like the U.N. Human Rights Council, that “defamation” should be prohibited by law. But what are democracies like the Philippines, South Africa, and Mexico doing voting in favor?

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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