THE TANDEM PROJECT
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
Separation of Religion or Belief & State
First Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (7-18 April, 2008)
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The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for the Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review and Current News:
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW
Universal Periodic Review was held by the UN Human Rights Council on
The primary human rights instruments on international law and freedom of religion or belief are:
Article 18 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The 1981 UN Declaration: http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm
The Tandem Project Follow-up is a twenty-first century adaptation of the draft 1986 Community Strategies that suggest how to implement Article 18 and the 1981 UN Declaration on freedom of religion or belief at a local level: http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf
THE TANDEM PROJECT FOLLOW-UP
(1) Develop model local-national-international integrated approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief, appropriate to the legal systems and cultures of each country, (2) Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief for inclusive and genuine integration, dialogue and education, (3) Use the standards on freedom of religion or belief for education curricula, “teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.”
Disclaimer: Information on government and non-governmental websites is in the public domain for public distribution unless copyrighted. Recommendations are opinions of The Tandem Project and are not endorsed by governments and non-governmental organizations.
1. Recommendations by
Amnesty International for the Netherlands Universal Periodic Review include a
call to the government of the
2. The Tandem Project Follow-up to the Netherlands Universal Periodic Review endorse the recommendations of Amnesty International. The Tandem Project recommends specific action plans at national and local levels to implement local program approaches on international law and freedom of religion or belief through integration, dialogue and education. Municipal governments and local non-governmental civil society organizations might consider drafting model programs and national-municipal legislation (Art. 4.2 1981 UN Declaration) as needed on human rights and freedom of religion or belief, as part of the Netherlands Universal Periodic Review.
3. In 2006 the
4. The Tandem Project
recommends the government of the
Stakeholder Summary Information Footnote 3 Recommendation letters.
Amnesty International: Submission Letter for the
Excerpt: Amnesty International Submission for the
“Responsibility for developing
and implementing policies against discrimination and racism in the
The principle of
non-discrimination is at the heart of the protection of human rights. Amnesty
International’s research indicates a failure on the part of municipal
authorities in the
Amnesty International considers that the government of the Netherlands is therefore failing to ensure implementation of relevant international human rights standards in relation to the prevention of discrimination and calls on the government of the Netherlands to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate policies to combat all forms of discrimination, at both the national and the local levels.”
The Protestant Church in the
Netherlands is the largest protestant church 2,300,000 in the Netherlands in
terms of membership It is the continuation of three former churches, the
Netherlands Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The “Declaration
on Unification” was signed by representatives of the three churches directly
after final synodical decisions had been taken on
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
The country has an area of 16,485 square miles and a population of 16.3 million. Approximately 60 percent of the population has some religious affiliation, although many do not actively practice their religion. Approximately 55 percent consider themselves Christian; 6 percent Muslim; 3 percent other (Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist); and 36 percent atheist or agnostic.
Society has become increasingly secularized. In general, church membership continued to decline. According to a 2006 study by the Government's Social Cultural Planning Bureau, church membership declined steadily from 76 percent of the population in 1958 to 30 percent in 2006 (16 percent Catholic and 14 percent Protestant). Only 16 percent regularly go to church. Although 55 percent regard themselves as Christian, among this group only 30 percent believe in God, while 50 percent are agnostic or hold vaguely defined beliefs. The European Values Study showed that of all Europeans, the Dutch consistently have the lowest levels of appreciation for religious institutions.
Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious group in the country; however, many express alienation from their religious hierarchy and doctrine. While 78 percent view the church as an important anchor of norms and values, 68 percent dismiss the church's views on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and divorce.
The country's Protestantism is heterogeneous. Among the Protestant churches, the Dutch Reformed Church remains the largest. Other Protestant denominations include Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Remonstrants.
950,000 Muslims, constituting 5.8 percent of the total population, live in the
country, primarily in the larger cities, including approximately 370,000 of
Turkish background and 330,000 of Moroccan background. Other Muslims include
those from the country's former colony of
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Constitution permits the Government to place restrictions on the exercise of religion only on limited grounds, such as health hazards, traffic safety, and risk of public disorder.
The Government provides state subsidies to religious organizations that maintain educational facilities. The Government provides education funding to public and religious schools, other religious educational institutions, and health care facilities, irrespective of their religious affiliation. To qualify for funding, institutions must meet strict nonreligious criteria in curriculum, minimum size, and health care.
The Government of Turkey exercises influence within the country's Turkish Muslim community through its religious affairs directorate, the Diyanet, which is permitted to appoint imams for the 140 Turkish mosques in the country. There is no such arrangement with the Moroccan Government, which maintains connections with the approximately 100 Moroccan mosques through a federation of Moroccan friendship societies but has no mechanism to exercise direct influence in the country. Authorities continued to express concern regarding Turkish and Moroccan interference with religious and political affairs, because such interference appeared to run counter to Government efforts to encourage integration of Muslims into society.
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.
Disputes arose when the exercise of the rights to freedom of religion and speech clashed with the strictly enforced ban on discrimination. Such disputes were addressed either in the courts or by antidiscrimination boards. Complaints were repeatedly filed against religious or political spokesmen who publicly condemned homosexuality. However, longstanding jurisprudence dictates that such statements, when made on religious grounds, do not constitute a criminal offense absent an intention to offend or discriminate against homosexuals.
The Equal Opportunities Committee and the courts repeatedly addressed the wearing of headscarves in schools and places of employment. The prevailing legal opinion holds that the wearing of headscarves may be banned only on narrow grounds, such as security considerations or inconsistency with an official government uniform. As it had done in the previous year, in 2006 Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Government to ban public wearing of burqas (a loose robe worn by some Muslim women that covers the body from head to toe). Legal experts consulted by the previous Integration Minister opined, however, that a general ban (as requested by Parliament) does not appear possible under the law. The Government stated in February 2007 that it is willing to consider banning "face-covering clothing in the interest of public order and safety."
Muslims faced continuing societal resentment, attributable to growing perceptions that Islam is incompatible with Western values, that Muslim immigrants have failed to integrate, and that levels of criminal activity among Muslim youth are higher than the national average. Major incidents of violence against Muslims were rare; however, minor incidents, including intimidation, brawls, vandalism, and graffiti with abusive texts were quite common. Expanding pockets of young Muslims and youths identifying themselves as "native Dutch" were responsible for most instances of violence. A number of offenders were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.
A number of outspoken politicians, mainly from the right, openly argued that Islam is incompatible with Dutch traditions and social values. Geert Wilders, whose Party of Freedom (PVV) won nine seats in the November 2006 general elections on an anti-immigrant and anti-Islam ticket, was the most prominent of several politicians seen as encouraging public opinion against Muslims by claiming that Islam preaches violence and hatred.
See US State Department 2008 International Freedom Report;
It is a crime
to engage in public speech that incites religious, racial, or ethnic hatred,
and the Government prosecuted several cases during the period covered by this
report. Convictions are rare, however, because courts are reluctant to restrict
freedom of expression, especially when it concerns expressions that
"offend, shock, or disturb" made by politicians or journalists within
the context of public debate or serving the public interest. For example, on
Source: US State Department 2007 International
Religious Freedom Report;
Source: US State
Department 2008 International Religious Freedom Report;
Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, at the Alliance of Civilizations Madrid Forum said; “never in our lifetime has there been a more desperate need for constructive and committed dialogue, among individuals, among communities, among cultures, among and between nations.”
Genuine dialogue on human rights and freedom of religion or belief calls for respectful discourse, discussion of taboos and clarity by persons of diverse beliefs. Inclusive dialogue includes people of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief. The warning signs are clear, unless there is genuine dialogue ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism; conflicts in the future will probably be even more deadly.
In 1968 the UN deferred work on an International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Religious Intolerance because of its complexity and sensitivity. Violence, suffering and discrimination based on religion or belief in many parts of the world is greater than ever. It is time for a UN Working Group to draft what they deferred in 1968, a comprehensive core international human rights treaty-a United Nations Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief. United Nations History – Freedom of Religion or Belief
The challenge to religions or beliefs at all levels is awareness, understanding and acceptance of international human rights standards on freedom of religion or belief. Leaders, teachers and followers of all religions or beliefs, with governments, are keys to test the viability of inclusive and genuine dialogue in response to the UN Secretary General’s urgent call for constructive and committed dialogue.
The Tandem Project title, Separation of Religion or Belief and State (SOROBAS), reflects the far-reaching scope of UN General Comment 22 on Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee (CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4). The General Comment on Article 18 is a guide to international human rights law for peaceful cooperation, respectful competition and resolution of conflicts:
Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.
The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations