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Fatal Attraction: US Flirts with International Speech Codes
by Nathaniel Sugarman
This week, the United States meets with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in London to discuss whether speaking about religion can violate international law. The meeting represents round three of the "Istanbul Process," an effort Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched in July 2011 in the eponymous Turkish city. The initiative's goal is to implement non-binding UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which itself calls for the criminalization of various forms of speech concerning religion. The OIC, an association of 56 Islamic member states and the Palestinian Authority, represents the largest voting bloc in the United Nations.
The renewed Istanbul Process talks come just a month after a UN official urged the United States to combat racism by adopting a "solid legal framework" for regulating internet speech. In a November 5, 2012 address to the General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur Mutama Ruteere recommended that countries take steps to combat "racial hatred," which include adopting "legislative measures" to address the problem. These measures, according the rapporteur, should be in compliance with "international human rights standards." Special Rapporteurs are UN-appointed officials assigned to research a particular issue and report back to the organization with their findings. In his report, Mr. Ruteere specifically identified the United States as a country that should consider new legislation targeting internet hate speech.
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