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UN Week – 9/13/10

September 13, 2010

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: defamation of religions, a different view; ElBaradei confronts Mubarak; achievements of Montreal Protocol in preserving the ozone layer; American elected to International Court of Justice.

Defamation of religions: 

In recent times, advocacy under the UN agenda item “defamation of religions” has focused among non-western countries mainly on condemnation of such defamation. But the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the subject takes a quite different approach. The author is Githu Muigai of Kenya. According to the website of Mohammed Muigai Advocates, his law firm, “Githu Muigai holds LLB and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Nairobi and an LLM Degree from Columbia University School of Law, New York. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) and a member of the American Association of Trial Lawyers. He was called to the bar in 1985. In addition to the practice of law he is an Associate Professor of Public Law in the School of Law of the University of Nairobi. He specializes in public aw and trans-national legal practice. He is a recognized authority on business regulatory matters and in international commercial arbitration.”

The following is from Muigai’s latest report, A/HRC/15/53: “90. With regard to stereotyping of religions, he recalls that vigorously interrogating and criticizing religious doctrines and their teachings is thoroughly legiti-mate and constitutes a significant part of the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion or expression. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate that domestic blasphemy laws aiming to protect religions per se can prove counterproductive since they could result in de facto censure of robust examination of religious doctrines and teachings and of inter- and intra-religious criticism. * * * Consequently, the Special Rapporteur encourages States to move away from the notion of defamation of religions towards the legal concept of advocacy of racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence in order to anchor the debate in the relevant existing international legal framework, and in particular that provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Muigai’s report covers the following subjects: acts of violence or discrimination, or incitement thereto, against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief; attacks on religious sites; religious and ethnic profiling; religious symbols; and negative stereotyping of religions, their followers and sacred persons. The following appears at pages 9-12 under headings of “Cases received by the Special Rapporteur”: “40. According to the 2009 Global Sikh Civil Rights Report, there have been a number of cases where Sikhs have been incorrectly detained and face harassment when entering the United States of America. Reportedly, a repeatedly occurring process for some Sikh individuals – including those who have no criminal records and are citizens of the United States of America – was described as follows: upon disembarking the plane, the targeted individual is identified and escorted by two officers of the Department of Homeland Security. The officers take the individual through immigration and then onward to baggage claim. After the luggage is picked up, the individual is taken to a private location where the baggage and the person is searched, all documentation with the individual is photocopied, and the individual’s phone is taken and information from the phone stored by the officers. The individual is questioned in detail about their trip, and then the individual is released. Throughout the entire experience, officers allegedly treat the individual rudely, asking pointed questions in a manner that is threatening as if the person is a suspect, and the experience lasts approximately two hours. * * * “43. * * *

While he acknowledges that States are obliged to take effective measures in preventing and combating terrorist attacks and that profiling is, in principle, a permissible means of law enforcement activity, the Special Rapporteur would like to underline that this practice raises human rights concerns, in particular regarding the non-derogatory principle of non-discrimination, the right to privacy, the right to freedom of movement and the right to personal liberty, which are all enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” Paragraphs 46- 57 detail various limitations on religious manifesta-tions in Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, India, Quebec, Germany, Bangladesh, Belgium and Spain.

ElBaradei confronts Mubarak.

The Guardian’s online news on September 9th related how the retired head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBara-dei, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is urging his fellow Egyptians to boycott next month’s parliamentary elections. He is quoted as calling Hosni Mubarak’s long presidency a “decaying, nearly collapsing temple.” The Guardian reports that ElBaradei “has insisted he will not stand in next year’s presidential elections unless reforms take place to ensure the vote is free and fair.” Mohammed ElBaradei was a student of mine in the 1960s when I was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University School of Law.

Achievements of Montreal Protocol in preserving the ozone layer.

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message on the September 16th International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer: “In general, successful environmental agreements require a broad framework, clear targets and a gradual approach to implementation. Then, as Governments gain confidence, they build on initial steps and set more ambitious goals. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer — which last year achieved universal ratification — is an excellent example of this process.

“When the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, Governments did not originally envision the phase-out of any ozone-depleting substance. Yet, as a result of very strong national and global compliance, parties to the Montreal Protocol have cut the production and consumption of more than 98 per cent of these harmful chemicals. In the process, the Protocol has also reduced emissions of greenhouse gases by more than 135 billion tons of CO2 equivalent, making it instrumental in the fight against climate change.

“The Montreal Protocol could not have delivered such profound achievements without robust governance and compliance structures put in place by its parties, both collectively and individually. The foundation of the Protocol is fairness. Through the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, the treaty provides a grace period to developing country parties, a funding mechanism governed by an equitable representation of developing and developed countries, compensation for the cost of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals, capacity building for national ozone offices in 147 developing countries, and dissemination of the most up-to-date ozone-friendly technologies.

“I encourage parties to the Montreal Protocol to continue to build on this model and to explore synergies that could help to address other environ-mental challenges, especially climate change. Let us use the governance tools contained in the existing ozone and climate treaties to reduce environ-mental threats to sustainable development and human well-being.” SG/SM/13091-ENV/DEV/1155-OBV/909.

American elected to the International Court of Justice.

In a vote held simultaneously with the General Assembly, the Security Council today elected Joan E. Donoghue of the United States, by secret ballot, to the International Court of Justice to fill the remainder of the term left vacant by the resignation of Judge Thomas Buergenthal of the United States (see documents S/2010/442 and S/2010/443). She can serve until 5 February 2015. Ms. Donoghue currently serves as Principal Deputy Legal Advisor in the United States Department of State. As a senior career attorney, her duties included advising Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama on all aspects of international law and advising on the drafting, negotiation and implementation of resolutions of the Security Council, General Assembly and other United Nations bodies, among others.

That’s all for this September 13th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, send us your own views on these or other UN-related issues, to

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