By British Humanist Association
Humanists have spoken out against blasphemy or offence laws at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. These laws, typically used to protect religious sensitivities, but consistently denounced as inconsistent with international human rights law, are increasingly being used to silence debate and to curtail the activities of human rights defenders. The British Humanist Association (BHA) intervention called for immediate steps to end state impunity regarding human rights abuses and for the adherence of international obligations.
Amelia Cooper, representative of the BHA, used her speech to highlight how online activists are regularly targeted by blasphemy laws, as in the case of Saudi Arabian Raif Badawi, whose punishment for establishing a liberal website includes 1000 lashes. These could begin imminently, due to the recent failure of his appeal. Amelia also reported on the plight of a student in Morocco, Abdessamad Haydour, who remains in jail on a three year sentence for ‘insulting the King’ in a video posted online, despite the 2011 constitutional guarantee to protect ‘freedom of thought, opinion,and expression in all its forms’.