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Home Human Rights Archive for category "Freedom of Religion" (Page 2)

The Iranian Charter of Citizens’ Rights

Published on December 10, 2013        Author: 

 Nazila Ghanea teaches international human rights law at the University of Oxford.

100 days into his presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rohani delivered a partial result on the nuclear issue (see EJIL:Talk! discussion by Dan Joyner)and released his draft Charter of Citizens’ Rights (henceforth ‘the Charter’) on 26 November 2013. Though the Presidential website offers content in 7 languages including English, the draft Charter has only been made available in Persian.

It is reported that the President consulted religious elites, experts, activists and academics within Iran with regard to this draft Charter, but not the Iranian judiciary. Academics, thinkers, universities and others have been asked to send their comments on the draft Charter to the legal deputy of the Iranian President within a month so that it can be revised and a final version released. So what feedback can one give the President’s office on the draft Charter? What does the Charter add and which rights does it guarantee? Does it fulfill the President’s aim (see here) that citizens’ rights make “all Iranians feel they are part of one nation, one identity, under one umbrella they can feel proud of”?

The Charter itself announces that it will not have an effect on existing rights, laws and obligations or on international conventions (article 1.1). The Charter states that it declares the most important citizenship rights and the direction of the government’s human rights policy, but that it does not intend to create new rights or obligations (article 1.6). The importance of the Charter, therefore, lies in the fact that it is declaratory of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s understanding of the most important citizens’ rights that it will henceforth prioritise in its activities. Though it should not impact existing UN human rights obligations according to article 1.1, this ‘prioritisation’ suggests that there will be a notable impact on Iran’s future human rights compliance. This is underscored in the follow-up suggested within the Charter, for example that there will be three-monthly updates to the Presidency regarding activities concerned with advancing Charter rights (article 15). Such Charter activities may well overshadow action on other human rights obligations binding upon Iran and on recommendations stemming from international human bodies. Read the rest of this entry…

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Freedom of Religion and Religious Symbols: Same Right – Different Interpretation?

Published on October 10, 2013        Author: 

stephanie berryStephanie E. Berry is Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Sussex.

As the debate over the wearing of religious attire in State institutions in Western Europe has reignited over previous weeks, it is pertinent to consider the protection provided under international law to those who wish to exercise this element of freedom of religion. As has been well documented, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has been willing to accept restrictions on the right to manifest religion by wearing religious attire under article 9(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds of the ‘rights and freedoms of others’ (specifically gender equality, pluralism and tolerance and State neutrality) (see, for example, Dahlab v Switzerland; Şahin v Turkey) and public order and safety (Phull v France; El-Morsli v France). However, the wide margin of appreciation afforded to States and the failure of the ECtHR to probe whether restrictions on the right to manifest religion are proportionate have been the subject of criticism.

Until recently the right to manifest religion by wearing religious attire under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) had rarely been considered by the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) (see Singh Bhinder v Canada and Hudoyberganova v Uzbekistan). Notably, however, the HRC does not recognise that States have a margin of appreciation. Thus, in two recent cases concerning the right to manifest the Sikh religion by wearing religious attire, a significant divergence between the approach of the HRC and the ECtHR can be observed.

800px-Sikhs_on_the_move!In Mann Singh v France and Ranjit Singh v France the ECtHR and HRC, respectively, considered the right of a Sikh man to manifest his religion by wearing a turban on a photograph affixed to an identification document. In Mann Singh v France, the ECtHR acknowledged that the requirement that the applicant appear without his turban in the photograph affixed to his driving license constituted an interference with the right to manifest religion. However, the ECtHR accepted that the restriction was justified on the grounds of ‘public safety’ and ‘public order’ under article 9(2) ECHR. Notably, the ECtHR deferred to the discretion of the State and, thus, did not examine the legitimacy of the State’s assertion that the removal of the turban was necessary to allow the identification of the driver and to avoid fraud. (photo credit)

Similarly, in Ranjit Singh v France the HRC considered the requirement that Sikhs remove their turbans in photographs affixed to residents permits, (paras 2.12-2.2) a requirement again justified by France on the grounds of public order and public safety (para 5.3) under article 18(3) ICCPR. Although the HRC recognised that the aim of the restriction was legitimate, (para 8.4), in direct contrast to the ECtHR, the HRC found:

 [T]hat the State party has not explained why the wearing of a Sikh turban covering the top of the head and a portion of the forehead but leaving the rest of the face clearly visible would make it more difficult to identify the author than if he were to appear bareheaded, since he wears his turban at all times. Nor has the State party explained how, specifically, identity photographs in which people appear bareheaded help to avert the risk of fraud or falsification of residence permits. (para 8.4)

The HRC continued to consider the potential for this interference to result in continuing violations of the applicant’s rights ‘because he would always appear without his religious head covering in the identity photograph and could therefore be compelled to remove his turban during identity checks’ (para 8.4). By exercising a higher level of scrutiny of the justifications given by the State for the restriction of the right to manifest religion, than the ECtHR in Mann Singh v France, the HRC was able to assess the proportionality of the interference and found a violation of freedom of religion. Read the rest of this entry…

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The European Court of Human Rights Gets It Right: A Comment on Eweida and Others v the United Kingdom

Published on January 19, 2013        Author: 

Dr Erica Howard is senior lecturer in law at Middlesex University and the author of Law and the Wearing of Religious Symbols: European Bans on the Wearing of Religious Symbols in Education (Routledge, 2012).

The European Court of Human Rights has delivered its Chamber judgment in the case of Eweida and Others v. the United Kingdom application nos. 48420/10, 59842/10, 51671/10 and 36516/10).

These cases concerned four practicing Christians. Ms Eweida, who worked for British Airways as check in staff, and Ms Chaplin, who worked as a nurse, both wanted to wear a cross in a visible way with their uniforms. Ms Ladele, a registrar of births, deaths and marriages, and Mr McFarlane, a relationship and psycho-sexual counsellor, both believed that homosexual relationships are contrary to God’s law and complained that they had been dismissed for refusing to carry out certain parts of their duties which they considered condoned homosexuality.

The European Court of Human Rights held that Ms Eweida’s and Ms Chaplin’s wish to wear a cross in a visible manner was a manifestation of their belief (paragraphs 89 and 97). In relation to Ms Eweida, the Court held that a fair balance had not been struck between her right to freely manifest her religion and British Airways wish to protect its corporate image and that the domestic courts had given too much weight to the latter (paragraph 94). Therefore, her right to manifest her religion under Article 9 was violated and it was not necessary to examine the claim under article 14 separately (paragraph 95).

Read the rest of this entry…

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