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U.S. Leads Effort to Criminalize Free Speech
by Ann Snyder
The Human Rights Council concluded its nineteenth session on March 23, 2012 and adopted, without a vote, yet another resolution aimed at restricting freedom of speech throughout the world. While its title, as usual, suggests it is about combating intolerance based on religion, its plain language shows that, once again, speech is the real target.
One of its sponsors, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference or "OIC" ), has, for over a decade, introduced speech-restrictive resolutions at the United Nations. In the past, these resolutions contained explicit language about "defamation of religions." Last year, however, when the OIC introduced Resolution 16/18 without the term "defamation of religions," the West's resistance to the OIC's efforts faltered (discussed here). The "defamation of religions" concept had been easy for Western countries to rally against, in part, because it seemed to attach rights to a concept (here, religion) rather than to individuals. But, dropping that term was little more than a cosmetic change leaving speech-targeting language behind and the OIC's speech-restrictive agenda intact.
Resolution 19/25, like 16/18, specifically "condemns" certain types of speech and "urges States to take effective measures as set forth in the present resolution, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents." (emphasis added) In short, it is an explicit call to action for states to curtail certain types of speech.
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