In July 2011, representatives of the international community gathered in Istanbul and initiated an intense process to expedite full and effective implementation of Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 (2001), entitled Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief. It was the beginning of the so-called “Istanbul Process”.

On 3rd and 4th June 2015 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the 5th meeting of the Istanbul Process was hosted by the General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. “The litmus test for the work of the Human Rights Council is its effectiveness, its impact beyond Room XX and on the ground. This is what the Istanbul Process is about: to better implement one of the Council’s landmark resolutions. This Process is a fine example for States not just negotiating and tabling a resolution, but for taking ownership of its very implementation.” – stressed Mr. Joachim Ruecker, President of the Human Rights Council, in his address to the audience.

Judge Fatsah Ouguergouz, Senior Advisor to the Geneva Centre, chaired and participated as a panellist in the third panel discussion of this 5th session, entitled Understanding the need to combat denigration, negative religious stereotyping of persons and incitement to religious hatred through adopting measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief. Judge Ouguergouz provided participants with a selection of best practices adopted by Member States of the Council of Europe in order to combat negative religious stereotyping of persons and incitement to religious hatred. He indicated that “even at the level of the 28 Member States of the European Union, which have reached a high level of integration, there is a large variety of legislations which reveals a lack of common understanding as far as the concept of religious hatred is concerned. In other words, there is no homogeneous or harmonized approach in this matter.” He concluded by stating that “at the present time, a certain degree of criminalization would be necessary in order to fight against religious hate speech; it should be done without undue infringement upon the exercise of freedom of speech and along the lines of some existing European national laws. Criminalization is however certainly not a panacea. To be fully preventive and deterring, criminalization needs to take root in a fertile soil, that is an enabling national environment, which needs to be fertilized by education and the promotion of intercultural and interfaith dialogue”.

Several stakeholders, including UN officials, government officials, NGOs, and civil society representatives, attended this 5th meeting of the Istanbul Process. They reiterated the importance of Resolution 16/18, as well as the relevance of the Istanbul Process as the unique follow up mechanism devoted to the full and effective implementation of Res. 16/18 and its Action Plan. Here are some of the key points that emerged from the discussion:

➢ The political commitment at the highest level of political institutions is essential for the full and effective implementation of HRC Res 16/18;

➢ The concerned Governmental institutions should give priority to the training of relevant officials as well as encourage religious and community leaders and civil society to address the root causes of religion-based discrimination;

➢ It is necessary to avoid double standards and implement Res. 16/18 in an objective and impartial manner;

➢ It is important to promote freedom of religion while combating intolerance and hatred based on religion;

➢ It is fundamental to ensure freedom of opinion and expression as a key precondition to the exercise of the right to freedom of religion;

➢ It is important to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue for better understanding and appreciating the differences and similarities as well as for promoting respect and tolerance;

➢ It is important to provide human rights education from an early stage that includes respect and tolerance of cultural and religious diversity and promotes multiculturalism;

➢ There is the need to strengthen the means of monitoring and reporting on the implementation of Resolution 16/18 by vigorous use and involvement in UPR, Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures.


To download Judge Ouguergouz’s introduction to Panel III, please click here.

To download the summary of the main points stressed by the panelists, as well as of the comments and questions from participants during the third panel discussion, please click here.

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