IS IT TIME: for the UN to appoint an Open-Ended Working Group to bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief together in a core international human rights legally-binding treaty?
Until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief is adopted, international human rights law, deferred since 1968, will be incomplete. The General Assembly should reconsider adoption of this seminal human rights instrument. Like the “god particle,” it is the Higgs-Bosen of human rights treaties, undiscovered energy. Instead of being comprehensive and integrated, religious intolerance is divided into many sub-parts. Now is the time for the UN to appoint an Open-Ended Working Group to bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief together in a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.
In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.
“The convention’s most fierce critics were the Soviet Union, other communist states, and several African and Asian States. Since the draft Convention’s definition of ‘religion or belief’ included theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs; there was strong opposition from Islamic states, the Catholic Church, and other religious groups. At its twenty-third session, the General Assembly decided to defer consideration of the draft convention.”- http://www.tandemproject.com/program/history.htm
“Recognizes: that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue, at the local, national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance and can play a positive role in strengthening democracy and combating religious hatred, and expresses its conviction that a continuing dialogue on these issues can help overcome existing misperceptions” - A/RES/66/167
UN Human Rights Council February 21, 2013 - Rabat Plan of Action http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/TheRabatPlanofAction.aspx