Civil Society Responds to UN Proposal for Binding Treaty on “Defamation of Religions”


Contact: Erin Weston
Phone: 703.503.0791
November 10, 2009

Civil Society Responds to UN Proposal for Binding Treaty on “Defamation of Religions”The United Nations has continuously passed non-binding resolutions on “defamation of religions” since 1999. However, for the first time ever this year, a UN body proposed a binding treaty to combat the “defamation of religions.” Over 100 NGOS from over 20 countries have signed a Common Statement protesting the resolution.In a Geneva meeting that concluded on October 30th, Pakistan, on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and Nigeria, on behalf of the Africa Group, proposed a binding treaty amendment to the ICERD, an existing international treaty on racism.

Meanwhile, in New York on October 29th, Syria, on behalf of the OIC, along with Belarus and Venezuela, proposed yet another General Assembly resolution “combating defamation of religions.”

The resolution lends credibility to the proposal of a binding treaty and continues to provide international cover for domestic anti-blasphemy laws in countries like Pakistan and Sudan. A preliminary vote on the resolution is expected before Thanksgiving, and a final plenary vote is expected in early to mid-December.

In response, Jubilee Campaign  has joined over 100 other human rights organizations in a common civil society statement against the concept of “defamation of religions. ” This coalition is indeed an odd group of bedfellows, both religiously diverse with Muslims, Christians, Baha’is, Jews, Hare Krishnas, Atheists, Humanists, and non-religious organizations, and also regionally diverse, hailing from over 20 countries around the world. The civil society statement and signatories are available at

“Defamation of Religions is a misunderstood concept,” said Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of the Jubilee Campaign. “Many countries assume that because the law will not affect their people, that voting for the resolution is a show of political good faith with the supportive countries. In reality, if this becomes binding law, governments and citizens who commit crimes with impunity for the sake of blasphemy or other non-popular idealogy will be completely and legally validated by the international community.”

Please click here to download the pdf of the statement and signatories.

Jubilee Campaign promotes the human rights and religious liberty of ethnic and religious minorities; advocates the release of prisoners of conscience; and protects and promotes the freedom and safety of children from bodily harm and sexual exploitation.

For more information, please contact Erin Weston, Deputy Assistant to the Director, at