“Freedom of Religion or Belief

Freedom of religion has been under attack in many parts of the world. Persons belonging to religious minorities have been persecuted and forced to flee from lands they inhabited for centuries. The violations of human rights perpetrated by ISIL/Da’esh and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq have been particularly brutal and widespread, and were unreservedly condemned by the EU.

In this context the implementation of the 2013 EU guidelines on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) remained a priority in 2015. Making full use of these guidelines, numerous statements and calls have been made to remind States of their primary duty to protect everyone, not least persons belonging to religious minorities, from discrimination, violence and other human rights violations. Freedom of religion or belief was systematically raised with many partners at different levels of political dialogue, including in human rights dialogues and consultations. The EU also engaged through public statements and discreet diplomacy on individual cases, such as that of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani Court.

In multilateral fora, the EU presented initiatives on FoRB, both at the Human Rights Council and at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). At the March session (HRC 28), the EU-led resolution on freedom of religion or belief was adopted by consensus. The resolution included a reference to the report of the Special Rapporteur on FoRB on the need to tackle manifestations of collective religious hatred. The explicit language on the right “not to have” a religion, which was introduced for the first time in the 2013 resolution, was confirmed. In the margins of HRC 28, the EU delegation in Geneva organised a side event with the Special Rapporteur on FoRB, to explore how to tackle religious hatred within the current international human rights framework.

At the 70th session of the UNGA, the EU-led resolution on FoRB was also adopted by consensus. The EU achieved its main objective of focusing on the protection of people belonging to religious communities and minorities around the world, ensuring the inclusion of an explicit reference to religious extremism that affects the rights of individuals, as well as a call to states to provide adequate protection to persons and communities at risk of violent attack on the grounds of their religion or belief.

The EU continued to engage with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the implementation of resolution 16/18, and was represented at the 5th Istanbul Process meeting held in Jeddah in June 2015.

As regards the EU’s financial instruments, in 2015, FoRB-related projects selected under the EIDHR 2013 global call for proposals on combating discrimination continued to be implemented in Asia, Eurasia and the Middle East. Moreover, additional funding for FoRB was committed to a limited number of reserve-listed projects, bringing total EIDHR support for the promotion of FoRB to more than EUR 11 million. The instrument now covers FoRB-related activities in all regions of the world.”