Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary

ISBN : 9780198813613

Heiner Bielefeldt; Nazila Ghanea; Michael Wiener
704 Pages
171 x 246 mm
Pub date
Jul 2017
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Violations of religious freedom and violence committed in the name of religion grab our attention on a daily basis. Freedom of religion or belief is a key human right: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, numerous conventions, declarations and soft law standards include specific provisions on freedom of religion or belief. The 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief has been interpreted since 1986 by the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Special Rapporteurs (for example those on racism, freedom of expression, minority issues and cultural rights) and Treaty Bodies (for example the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child) have also elaborated on freedom of religion or belief in the context of their respective mandates. Freedom of Religion or Belief: An International Law Commentary is the first commentary to look comprehensively at the international provisions for the protection of freedom of religion or belief, considering how they are interpreted by various United Nations Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. Structured around the thematic categories of the United Nations Special Rapporteur's framework for communications, the commentary analyses, for example, the limitations on the wearing of religious symbols and vulnerable situations, including those of women, detainees, refugees, children, minorities and migrants, through a combination of scholarly expertise and practical experience.


The Underlying Principles of Freedom of Religion or Belief - Towards a Holistic Conceptualization
Overview of International Human Rights Mechanisms

Part 1: Freedom of Religion or Belief
1.1 Freedom to Adopt, Change or Renounce a Religion or Belief
1.2 Freedom from Coercion
1.3 The Right to Manifest One's Religion or Belief

Part 2: Discrimination
2.1 Discrimination on the Basis of Religion or Belief/Interreligious Discrimination/Tolerance
2.2 State Religion

Part 3: Vulnerable Groups
3.1 Women
3.2 Persons Deprived of their Liberty
3.3 Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons
3.4 Children
3.5 Minorities
3.6 Migrant Workers

Part 4: Intersection of Freedom of Religion or Belief with other Human Rights
4.1 Freedom of Expression Including Questions Related to Religious Conflicts, Religious Intolerance, and Extremism
4.2 Right to Life, Right to Liberty
4.3 Prohibition on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Part 5: Cross-Cutting Issues
5.1 Derogation
5.2 Limitations
5.3 Legislative Issues
5.4 Defenders of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Non-Governmental Organizations

About the author: 

Dr Heiner Bielefeldt (Dr phil Tubingen, Habil Bremen, Dr h.c. Luzern) has been the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief since 2010. He is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany's National Human Rights Institution. His research interests include the history of political ideas, legal philosophy and various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a specific focus on freedom of religion or belief.; Dr Nazila Ghanea (MA Leeds, PhD Keele, MA Oxon) is Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, Fellow of Kellogg College and member of the OSCE Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the independent think tank the Universal Rights Group. Her research has been funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, Open Society and QNRF. Her research interests include freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, minority rights, the domestic effects of human rights treaty ratification and human rights in the Middle East.; Dr Michael Wiener (LLM London, Ass iur Rheinland-Pfalz, Dr iur Trier) has been working in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since 2006. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and has subsequently assisted the mandate for five years, conducting visits to a dozen of countries/territories. He has also been a Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford since 2011. He has published a book on freedom of religion or belief as well as related chapters and journal articles.

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