Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted to elect 14 new members to the Human Rights Council (HRC) to serve from 2023 to 2025. Among those elected were Sudan and Vietnam. The former was selected in a clean slate election, meaning that the number of candidates equaled the number of seats available, while the latter defeated Afghanistan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).
The election of both of these states is deeply disappointing.
Sudan is currently led by a military leader who seized power illegally from the civilian-led transitional government in an October 2021 coup, and where the past year has been characterized by the killing and brutalising of peaceful protesters, and attempts to reverse the limited human rights gains made under the transitional government, including in relation to the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).
The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has led the northern part of Vietnam since 1954, and took control of the rest of the country in 1975, following the collapse of the South Vietnamese government. During that time, the VCP has repeatedly violated human rights, including FoRB and land rights, whilst routinely targeting those who request or advocate for such rights with harassment, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, physical violence and even torture.
Continue reading “Disappointments at the UN, but we must not let the challenges obscure the good that it can achieve” →
Netflix’s hit dystopian drama – with deadly playground games, anonymous masked henchmen and a giant murderous doll – is far-fetched to say the least. And yet, arguably, one storyline underplays the grim reality.
In just four weeks, Squid Game, the Korean production where contestants play children’s games and the losing players are killed, became Netflix’s most popular series ever and number one in 90 countries.
In one storyline, guards take the bodies of losing contestants and operate on them, removing vital organs while the subjects are still alive. These organs are then rushed to be sold to Chinese traders.
Continue reading “Far-fetched and fantastical? One aspect of Squid Game could be all too real” →
“The fact is that we simply can’t afford to be religiously illiterate in today’s world. To be religiously illiterate in today’s world is simply to fail to understand how and why others act as they do.” – These are the words of Bishop Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro, speaking at the deferred 175th anniversary celebration of The National Club earlier this month.
Bishop Mounstephen has been a friend of mine, and of CSW, for a number of years now, so it will come as little surprise that we fully support his assertion. As the bishop outlined so eloquently in his speech, freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), cannot be seen as a “side-bar” or “special interest” issue. In fact, it is a fundamental human right, the abuse of which so often leads to wider human rights violations as it intersects with issues such as poverty, race and gender.
Continue reading “On freedom of religion or belief, the UK government needs to turn its rhetoric to reality” →
Fortunately, the UK government appears to agree. Last year, upon the appointment of Fiona Bruce MP as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for FoRB, Boris Johnson said: “The UK is absolutely committed to protecting the inalienable right to freedom of religion and belief, at home and around the world.”
In February 2021, CSW warned that slow progress in ushering a new era for Sudan risked derailing the inclusive national vision that had united so many of its citizens in protest, and which led to the fall of the al-Bashir regime and the creation of a transitional government. Our blog post pointed to the need to learn from neighbouring Egypt’s experiences.
On 25 October 2021, the transitional council was overthrown, and the military seized power in a coup. Once again there are lessons to be drawn from Egypt, and the wider region, in understanding the challenges to democracy in Sudan today.
Both Sudan and Egypt have a complicated history of the involvement of the military in politics. One of the key differences in the two nations’ relationship with the military, however, is one of ideology.
In the immediate post-Mubarak era, the military effectively paved the way for a Muslim Brotherhood electoral victory. However, when the army intervened in political affairs for the second time, it set out to control the excesses of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, positioning itself as the guardian of the Revolution and assisting in the overthrow of the government following mass protests.
Continue reading “Sudan’s military coup: lessons from Egypt and the wider region” →
Religion-related tensions continue to arise in many African countries. They come in varying forms and degrees of intensity, and can be intra-religious or occur between religious communities.
Religion is either instrumentalised as a rallying point or is the raison d’étre of armed non state actors seeking to enforce an extremist interpretation of their creed or to gain material advantage. It is used by individuals or political parties as a bridge to power and rallying point. In addition, some governments view religion, or certain religious or non-religious groups, as threats, exercising control through excessive registration requirements or more forcible means.
Every country on the African continent is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), with its expanded articulation of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), where the right to change or refuse one’s religion or belief as an act of conscience can be inferred from Article 8. However, in parts of the continent, human rights in general, and FoRB in particular, are challenged by arguments about cultural relativism and frequent but erroneous assertions that they are a Western construct.
Thus, despite being parties to international and regional treaties, many African countries either do not give legal effect to them, or create exemptions for their implementation. This has further exacerbated their already poor profile on human rights protection.
Continue reading “Long Read: Removing the Obstacles to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Africa” →