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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
22 October 2008

General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly
Third Committee
20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)
Committee Also Hears from Special Adviser on Myanmar;
Rapporteurs on Freedom of Religion, Terrorism, Expert on Extreme Poverty

Reports on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

ASMA JAHANGIR, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said, following a review of her mandate by the Human Rights Council in December 2007, she had focused her work on four main areas....

Her second main area of focus was in identifying existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and presenting recommendations on ways to overcome those obstacles, she said.  Country visits had been extremely useful to those efforts and, since her last report, she had visited Angola, Israel, India, Turkmenistan, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories.  Examining incidents and Governmental actions that were incompatible with the provisions of the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and recommending remedial measures was the third main focus of her work.  Communications sent to Governments had been a “precious tool” in that work and, since the establishment of her mandate, more than 1,130 allegation letters and urgent appeals had been sent to a total of 130 States.  In her work, she said she had always prioritized her fourth main area of work, which was the application of a gender perspective through the identification of gender-specific abuses in the reporting process, including in information collection and in recommendations. /... Questions and Answers

All speakers welcomed the Special Rapporteur and thanked her for her report.

The representative of Greece asked whether the Special Rapporteur had noticed any instances of genocide, or forms of genocide, being committed in any of the countries she had visited.  Similarly, the representative of Indonesia asked about her visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel, whether she envisaged a way to cultivate a culture of peace at the grass-roots level, among people of different religious beliefs, that was supportive of the peace process.  He also commented that any limitations on freedom of religion by States should be a product of a democratic, inclusive process and asked for her view on that.


On Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, she [Ms. JAHANGIR] admitted having had no breakthrough in that situation, but said that various confidence-building measures, which might not bring peace, at least kept polarization down.  Such initiatives must be encouraged.


In a second round of questions, the representative from the Observer Mission of Palestine asked how the international community should address the violations committed against Palestinians by Israeli occupying forces, as highlighted in the report of the Special Rapporteur, and similar violations by illegal Israeli settlers, which had not been addressed in the report.


The representative of Israel asked how the Special Rapporteur might encourage more invitations and country visits to countries in the Middle East.


The representative of Lebanon asked whether certain acts of the Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Territories, such as the establishment of checkpoints and barriers preventing movement, could be considered as a violation of the freedom of religion, as those checkpoints could prevent Muslims and Christians from worshipping in particular areas.

Iran’s delegate asked about the effects of certain acts or policies of the United States -- particularly those that had led to wars -- and how those policies had affected the global situation regarding freedom of religion.  He added that the situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories was a cultural genocide and should be considered in that context.

Ms. JAHANGIR, replying briefly due to time constraints, said that her report on questions relating to Israel and its acts in the Occupied Territories had been written and would be presented to the Council in March.  She added that her report would also address allegations of acts committed by Israeli settlers.


On questions relating to country visits, she said that she would like to visit all the countries that she had listed, particularly those in the Middle East, since that region was currently a gap in her mandate.


Briefly, in response to the question by the representative of Lebanon, she said that checkpoints had indeed been devastating and there had been violations of the freedom of religion or belief.

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For information media • not an official record

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