I have the honour to address this Committee on behalf of the European Union on the draft resolution L.25 entitled “Freedom of religion or belief".
Promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief as a universal human right, and eliminating discrimination on the basis of religion or belief are key priorities of the European Union’s human rights policy. In promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief, the EU is guided by the universality, indivisibility, inter-relatedness and interdependence of all human rights. The human right to freedom of religion or belief safeguards respect for diversity. Its free exercise directly contributes to democracy, development, rule of law, peace and stability.
Resolution L.25 in front of you stresses the importance of the protection of freedom of religion or belief in response to the rise of violent religious extremism in various parts of the world. It stresses that the freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief also includes the right not to believe and to change one’s religion or belief, and notes the interdependence of this human right with the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of association.
The resolution draws attention to the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities and religious communities, particularly their right to exercise their religion or belief freely.
It also expresses support to the vital contribution of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
With the aim to encourage States to focus on implementation of the resolution, only technical updates have been introduced in this year's text. The text as it stands from last year is relevant and calls for the right actions. The European Union has taken several steps to advance implementation within the EU, and promotes its implementation elsewhere. The Istanbul stock-taking meeting held in April in Geneva jointly hosted by the EU Delegation, Denmark and the Universal Rights Group, and the upcoming 7th meeting of the Istanbul Process next week, on 18 and 19 November, hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Universal Rights Group are concrete demonstrations of EU Member States' commitment to make progress on all fronts, including under resolution 16/18 on combating intolerance and violence against persons based on religion and belief which we see as complementary to our freedom of religion or belief resolution.
We hope that as in previous years this resolution will be adopted by consensus. This will send a strong message to the world on the importance of protecting freedom of religion or belief.
In conclusion we would like to sincerely thank all the Member States that have co-sponsored the text already and we hope that many others will still join.