Urgent debate on Quran burning and key votes at 53rd UN Human Rights Council
Map of the Month 07/2023
During an urgent debate of the UN Human Rights Council on July 11-12, a resolution on the recent Quran burning in Sweden was adopted with 28 votes in favour, 12 against, and 7 abstentions, after Belgium called for a vote on behalf of the EU states who are members of the Council. Pakistan had introduced the resolution on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). It calls on states to adopt laws, policies, and law enforcement frameworks, among other things, and to take steps to ensure accountability. States voting against the resolution pointed to the high threshold to restrict the right to freedom of expression under Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and recalled the consensus reached around resolution 16/18 in 2011. General blasphemy laws were incompatible with the ICCPR. Among the 30 resolutions adopted at the 53rd UN Human Rights Council was i.a. a text on the right to development, again tabled by China, which, according to the EU, takes a development-based approach to human rights instead of a human rights-based approach to development. The Council also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus and the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. In addition, the OHCHR was mandated to report on their work in Ukraine at each Council session. The situation in Afghanistan was discussed as well. According to Special Rapporteur Bennet, it was the worst in the world for women and girls, who suffered gender-based persecution that amounted to crimes against humanity and could even be characterized as "gender apartheid". 58 states had signed a joint statement condemning the situation at the June meeting (compared to 73 in March).