The historic consensus on freedoms of religion and expression are at risk, United Nations human rights experts have warned.
In a powerful statement, the experts reference nations restricting free speech as a means of addressing hate speech, stressing that “any limitation of speech must remain an exception and strictly follow international human rights standards”.
“This remains highly relevant today in light of State actions that are incompatible with freedoms of religion, belief, opinion and expression, including the use of anti-blasphemy and anti-apostasy laws, which render religious or belief minorities, including atheists and dissenters, vulnerable to discrimination and violence,” they say.
They warn states against reviving the “dangerous notion” of ‘defamation of religions’ and the “divisive debate” that had undercut efforts to combat religious discrimination and intolerance prior to achieving the consensus agreement 10 years ago.
Instead, they suggest that States should “operationalise the Rabat threshold test”, which, they say, “sets the right balance between protecting freedom of expression and prohibiting incitement to hatred”.
The Rabat threshold test follows a case-by-case assessment of various factors as opposed to imposing blanket bans.
The warning comes following the passing of the Scottish Government’s controversial Hate Crime Bill, which many critics warn could restrict legitimate freedom of expression.
Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) said Holyrood should take the “sober warning” on board in regards to the “flawed” Bill.
“We would urge the Scottish Government, as it oversees the implementation of its new legislation, to carefully study the opinion of this UN panel of experts, and so ensure that Scotland in no way relinquishes its’ historic reputation as a bastion of liberty,” said Michael Veitch, CARE for Scotland Parliamentary Officer.
Picture: Worshippers pray the Rosary. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz).