European Parliament highlights Freedom of Religion or Belief

Today the European Parliament adopted the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the world 2015 and the European Union’s policy on the matter.

FoRB Intergroup co-Chair Dennis de Jong MEP said: “The resolution gives extra weight to our dialogue with the EEAS on the implementation of the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief. As we as intergroup demonstrated in our own Annual Report, persecution based on religion or belief is increasing in many parts of the world. It is important for the EU and its Member States to do their utmost to support religious and belief communities who are facing discrimination, violence and persecution. This holds, in particular, for those professing a non-religious belief, as their rights are frequently completely ignored, especially in States where the government identifies itself with a dominant religion.”

FoRB Intergroup co-Chair Peter van Dalen MEP stated “I am pleased that the European Parliament took almost all of the Intergroup’s amendments for freedom of religion or belief on board. The cross-party support proves that FoRB must continue to be prioritised. We have a duty to protect religious or belief groups and these amendments provide us with the tool to advocate just that.”

Intergroup Bureau Members from 5 political Groups submitted amendments to this report, relating to freedom of religion or belief. These include Intergroup co-Chairs Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL), Peter van Dalen (ECR), and Bureau Members Lars Adaktusson (EPP), Miltiadis Kyrkos (S&D) and Hannu Takkula (ALDE).

Please see the full FoRB section from the report below, largely based on the Intergroup’s amendments over the last two years.

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief

The Parliament

142. Condemns, in line with Article 10 TFEU, all acts of violence and persecution, intolerance and discrimination on the basis of ideology, religion or belief; expresses its serious concern over the continued reports of violence and persecution, intolerance and discrimination against religious and belief minorities around the world; stresses that the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief are fundamental rights, interrelated with other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and encompassing the right to believe or not to believe, the right to manifest or not to manifest any religion or belief, and the right to adopt, change and abandon or return to a belief of one’s choice, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in Article 9 of the European Convention of Human rights; calls on the EU and its Member States to engage in political discussions to repeal blasphemy laws; calls on the EU and its Member States to ensure that minorities are respected and protected worldwide, including in the Middle East, where Yazidis, Christians, Muslim minorities and atheists are being persecuted by Daesh and other terrorist groups; deplores the abuse of religion or belief for terrorist purposes;

143. Supports the EU’s commitment to promote the right to freedom of religion or belief within international and regional forums including the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other regional mechanisms, and encourages the EU to continue tabling its yearly resolution on freedom of religion or belief at the UN and supporting the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; encourages the VP/HR and the EEAS to engage in a permanent dialogue with NGOs, religious or belief groups and religious leaders;

144. Fully supports the EU practice of taking the lead on thematic resolutions at the UNHRC and at the UNGA on freedom of religion and belief, encourages the EU to support the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and urges countries not currently accepting requests for visits from the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to do so;

145. Calls on the EU to reinforce its existing instruments, and to adopt any other within its mandate, to ensure that the protection of religious minorities is effective worldwide;

146. Calls for concrete action to ensure the effective implementation of the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief, including: systematic and consistent training of EU staff at Headquarters and in Delegations; reporting on country and local situations; and engaging in close cooperation with local actors, especially leaders of religious or belief groups;

147. Is deeply concerned that in some parts of the world the position of religion or belief communities is endangered, with entire religious communities disappearing or fleeing;

148. Highlights the fact that Christians are currently the religious group most harassed and intimidated in countries throughout the world, including in Europe, where Christian refugees routinely suffer religiously motivated persecution, and that some of the oldest Christian communities are in danger of disappearing, especially in North Africa and the Middle East;

149. Encourages the international community and the EU to provide protection for minorities and to install safe zones; calls for the recognition, self-administration and protection of ethnic and religious minorities living in areas where they have historically had a strong presence and lived peacefully alongside each other – for example in the Sinjar mountains (Yazidis) and the Nineveh plains (Chaldean-Syrian-Assyrian peoples); calls for special assistance in efforts to preserve (mass) graves in areas of current or recent conflicts, with the aim of exhuming and forensically analysing the human remains therein, in order to allow for decent burial, or release to the family, of the victims’ remains; calls for the establishment of a dedicated fund that can help finance initiatives to preserve evidence, in order to enable investigation and prosecution of suspected crimes against humanity; calls for actions from the EU and its Member States to set up, as a matter of urgency, a group of experts tasked with collecting all evidence of any on-going international crime, including genocide, against religious and ethnic minorities, wherever they may happen, including the preservation of mass graves in areas of current or recent conflicts, with the aim of preparing international prosecution of those responsible;