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USCIRF to Rice: US Must Advocate Strong Renewed Mandate for UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has written a letter urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to push for renewal of a strong mandate for the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief, a crucial human rights investigative institution. The issue is under discussion this week at the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is regrettable that the U.S. government has thus far failed to speak out in support of the mandate at the current Council session,” said the letter, signed by Commission Chair Michael Cromartie. “In previous sessions, the United States had been among its most vocal proponents.”

In the letter, the Commission also expressed concern about the growing trend in the Human Rights Council to deflect attention from the promotion of religious freedom by calling for a halt to so-called “defamation of religion.” “Prohibitions on defamation of religion violate the principles outlined in international human rights instruments, which guarantee the right of everyone to freedom of expression as well as to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” the Commission letter said.