Declaration of THE LATIN AMERICAN CONSORTIUM FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY regarding the Inter-American Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
The Latin American Consortium for Religious Freedom expresses its concern regarding the Inter-American Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (hereinafter the "Convention"), adopted by the Organization of American States (hereinafter "OAS"). The Convention has been sent for signature to countries in the region and is being considered for ratification by some signatory states.
The Convention contains elements undoubtedly of great value. In relation to the main object of our concern, we appreciate that the Convention confirms the condemnation of any form of discrimination based on religion. However, we believe that this protection is overshadowed by other aspects of the Convention more difficult to accept.
It is worth mentioning that neither the Consortium nor its members approve in any way intolerance or discrimination in any of its forms, as such forms of discrimination have already been defined in existing instruments in the inter-American human rights system and its universal counterparts. However, we believe that the Convention, as has been written, does not properly reconcile the objective of combating unfair discrimination and the protection of the already recognized human rights of freedom of expression, conscience and religion.It also seems to us that the Convention is inconsistent with other existing international human rights instruments and doctrines. In that vein, the Consortium shares the serious objections raised by other third parties regarding the incompatibility of the Convention with the existing regulations of the countries in the OAS regarding the protection of the human rights mentioned above.
The Convention creates two innovations that are, in our view, of particular concern: the first is its extremely broad and all-encompassing definition of "intolerance" which creates an uncertain and vague legal concept, and which provides its interpreters with an extreme degree of discretion; and the second is the creation of a "new human right" of protection against the aforementioned intolerance. Thus, on its face, the Convention creates for the member states of the OAS that become parties to the Convention, the obligation to "eliminate, prohibit and punish all acts and manifestations of discrimination and intolerance," even by and among private actors, with the potential result of infringing freedom of expression of thought, conscience and religion, all of which are precious to the inter-American human rights system.These provisions do not exclude religious organizations, including with regard to their internal relationships among their members and between the members and the organizations.
Traditionally, anti-discrimination laws seek to provide protection to people whose fundamental human rights are violated for reasons linked to so-called “suspect categories,” such as race, ethnicity, religion or sex. The basic intent of these rules is to ensure to all people, and especially those who are vulnerable, equal access to legal rights protected by human rights treaties, without arbitrary discrimination.In the Convention, however, intolerance stands by itself in an autonomous manner as conduct to punish, and can be established merely by issuing an expression that someone considers as intolerant, without any underlying right being affected.In other words, the Convention would require the adopting States to punish and censor speeches or activities that may fall within the definition of intolerance, that is, either involving disagreement with or opposition to the opinion of a third party, without the need to demonstrate any prejudice to other rights, based on the mere fact that the opinion expressed is denounced by others as being intolerant.
It is a basic tenet of almost all religions the fundamental belief that human actions can be contrasted with standards or codes of conduct that the religions and their adherents recognize, and that based on those standards or codes conduct can be determined to be good or bad according to the commandments of faith.The Convention would require States to punish any religious teaching that implies a moral judgment about human behavior, even expressed in the abstract or with respect to various religious denominations’ own members.Even though the Convention may not have been intended to violate freedom of conscience and religion, or of expression, it is very likely that this will be the result of its strict application.We believe that the Convention as it has been drafted seriously affects freedom of expression; and also fundamentally affects religious freedom. The latter (religious freedom), which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has defined as "one of the foundations of democratic society", in conjunction with freedom of expression, undoubtedly includes the freedom to express moral judgments and to present, spread and defend religious and moral doctrine, even though some people may feel affected by such judgments and doctrineormay consider that such judgments are not sufficiently tolerant.
Finally, by creating a "new human right" (the right to be protected from all forms of intolerance, in the broad sense that the term has in the Convention), this instrument would have the potential effect of leaving unprotected the human rights -- protected by the Pact of San José de Costa Rica -- to freedom of expression, conscience and religion, assembly, association, and movement and residence, because they are all subject to be restricted to protect the rights of others not be victims of intolerance.Before the creation of this new human right -- which unlike the others, does not appear to be subject to any restrictions, without regard to the widespread recognition that there are no absolute rights-- the content and protection of all those human rights will be reformulated on the basis of the Convention and subordinated to the new law, which would have absolute primacy. In short, freedom of expression, conscience and religion, and other freedoms, will cease to exist as we have previously known them.
It is for these reasons that the Latin American Consortium for Religious Freedom, having carefully analyzed the text of the Convention, and having deliberated internally in an informed manner, has institutionally resolved to issue this statement, which invites Member States of the OAS not to ratify the Convention, at least in its current state.
Juan G. NAVARRO FLORIA - Secretario
Dra. Carmen ASIAIN PEREIRA - Presidente
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