July 15, 2021

Monitoring Desk


LAHORE

On July 13, 2021, UN human rights experts expressed their deep concern over the lack of attention to the serious human rights violations perpetrated against the Ahmadiyya Community around the world and called on the international community to step up efforts in bringing an end to the ongoing persecution of Ahmadis.

“It is of the utmost importance to shed light on the persistent human rights violations and the rising acts of discrimination against Ahmadis worldwide, which we find deeply worrying,” the experts said.

“We call on the international community to be vigilant and to undertake coordinated action to respond to the violations faced by Ahmadis around the world, particularly in the countries where their lives are most at risk.”

While Ahmadis constitute a global religious community with a rich history and millions of members, for more than 15 years, the UN has received reports of religious intolerance, discrimination and violence perpetrated against this community by state officials as well as non-state actors in a number of countries, including Pakistan. Other countries include Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, and Sri Lanka.

With the mandate of Special Procedure, the UN said that it intervened with the concerned governments and has attempted to strengthen awareness in the international community about the dire situation of the Ahmadis.

UN representatives said that they raised serious concerns about the plethora of human rights abuses and violations suffered by Ahmadis in these countries. “Such violations are not limited to existing discriminatory institutional and legal settings, but they also extend to acts and coordinated campaigns of discrimination, stigmatization and blatant aggression against Ahmadis’ identity, cultural, social and political existence, often on the grounds of a perceived and politically instrumentalized doctrinal disagreement around Islam, and the entrenched prejudice that they are not to be considered as “real Muslims”, said the UN representatives.

The UN representatives added that the situation was worsened because of existence of laws and regulations that promoted and institutionalized the predominance of the majority ethno-religious communities over all other minorities, as well as the promotion of certain religions and beliefs over others.

“Such institutional and legal frameworks impose significant obstacles in the enjoyment of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including the principle of non-discrimination, the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, as well as cultural and socio-economic rights guaranteed in international human rights instruments,” said the UN experts highlighting the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

They said that of particular concern were the constitutional provisions, special ordinances, ministerial decrees and religious fatwas that stigmatized and discriminated against the Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, and which prohibit Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims, freely expressing their beliefs, practising their faith, and from effectively participating in public life.

The UN also said that they had observed that Ahmadis were also denied access to public-service employment on religious grounds and are particularly vulnerable to violations under laws on offences relating to religion (such as blasphemy laws).

Ahmadis are also vulnerable to the laws that regulate social media platforms (and other new technologies), with the aim of suppressing their views and beliefs, increase control of their communities and their persecution through coordinated online hate campaigns and, in certain cases, online coordinated acts of collective punishment.

“We note with grave concern the application of discriminatory regulations that appear to aim at denying Ahmadis’ fundamental freedoms as citizens,” said the UN experts. “Including inter alia their voting rights and their access to identification documents, as well as imposing administrative obstacles in the enjoyment of their right to form and maintain associations.”

DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE

In addition to discriminatory legislative and policy frameworks, Ahmadis have often been the target of discrimination, exclusion, hate campaigns and violence, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, verbal and physical attacks in the public sphere, as well as attacks against their cultural sites and places of worship.

In some countries, noted the UN, Ahmadi women are particularly affected, as they face harassment and discrimination due to their distinctive traditional Ahmadi attire, which makes them immediately recognisable, while Ahmadi children and youth are often denied admission to schools and higher education institutions because of their faith, and constantly suffer intimidation and bullying, thus forcing them to drop out and interrupt their studies.

Reports from these countries have also indicated that Ahmadis are still portrayed in a negative light in school textbooks, while Ahmadiyya educational institutions are often seized and administratively closed by state authorities.

The UN also added that the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has exacerbated existing religious intolerance and discrimination against minority communities and vulnerable groups worldwide, including the Ahmadis, who have been particularly affected by the upsurge in incitement to hatred and stigmatization, and the propagation of disinformation, holding them responsible for the development and spreading of the COVID-19 virus.

“We recall the international standards on non-discrimination and prohibition of any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” said a UN statement. “We also draw attention to the authoritative interpretation of Article 18 of the ICCPR, providing for protection and promotion of all rights under the Covenant – including the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief (Article 18), and the rights of minorities protected under Article 27 – even in those cases in which a certain religion is recognized as a State religion, or that it is established as official or traditional, or that its followers comprise the majority of the population.

The protection, promotion and fulfilment of the human rights of the adherents of any religion or belief is not contingent upon the official recognition of such a religion or belief. At the same time, the institutionalisation and official recognition of certain beliefs or religions should in no circumstance become the reason or the basis for discrimination of any kind against adherents of other beliefs or religions.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

The UN has urged all the States to:

a) Repeal all laws that discriminate against Ahmadis, including laws that curtail their right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, opinion and expression, offline and online, and amend them in accordance with international human rights standards;

b) In particular, repeal all blasphemy laws or at least, amend them in compliance with the strict requirements of the ICCPR and its articles 2, 19 and 26;

c) Strengthen legislative and institutional responses in effectively addressing hate speech and incitement to national, racial or religious hatred, in accordance with the established international human rights standards and by integrating the guidance provided by the Rabat Plan of Action;

d) Ensure equal and effective participation of Ahmadis in public life and in decision-making processes that affect them, including by guaranteeing their political representation and the free exercise of their right to vote; by guaranteeing their access to employment and public services of any kind, and by protecting their right to form and maintain their associations and organizations;

e) Address the multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination suffered by Ahmadi women, children and refugees;

f) Rescind any bans on Ahmadiyya publications, and ensure that Ahmadis fully enjoy their right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, including through any media of their choice;

g) Protect and safeguard Ahmadi cultural places and places of worship against attacks and desecrations;

h) Eliminate discrimination and exclusion of Ahmadi children in education and vocational training; undertake appropriate legislative and policy measures to address physical and psychological violence and bullying inside and outside school premises; and, revise and amend national curricula and textbooks to eliminate prejudicial references that perpetuate stigma against minorities, and with the aim of strengthening human rights education and promoting inter-religious, inter-cultural understanding and dialogue.

i) Ensure accountability and prosecute all those responsible for violations and attacks against Ahmadis and other minorities, and design and implement human rights awareness-raising and training programmes for all relevant state institutions and public officials, with the active participation of Ahmadiyya communities, as well as of religious leaders representing different faiths.

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