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NGOs Take Aim at 'Religious Defamation,' Urge Competitive U.N. Council Elections
by Patrick Goodenough
On the eve of yet another United Nations vote on a "defamation of religion" resolution Thursday, a broad range of human rights, press freedom, religious and secularist organizations urged the world body's Human Rights Council to reject the measure.
Given the makeup of the council – more than half the 47 seats are reserved for African and Asian nations, and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) members currently hold one-third of the total – the likelihood of the OIC-promoted resolution failing appeared slim.
Still, opponents hope that an apparent trend of dwindling support seen in recent years will continue.
The 2007 HRC vote was 24-9, with 14 abstentions; in 2008 the resolution was passed by 21-10, again with 14 members abstaining. Meanwhile defamation of religion resolutions in the 192-member General Assembly have followed a similar track – the 2007 vote was 108-51, with 25 abstentions; the 2008 resolution passed 86-53, with 42 countries abstaining.
In both the council and General Assembly, the 2008 votes for the first time recorded a larger number of countries opposing or abstaining than those supporting the resolution.
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