Comments by David G. Littman, NGO Representative UN, Geneva: Association
for World Education (AWE); World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)
In our recent comments on the latest FGM origo mali (origin of evil) event at the UNHRC (Geneva), we announced this revealing video on the landmark 16 June 2008 'Shariah-gate Shipwreck'. We thank Vlad Tepes blog for once again documenting, jointly with us, this classic example of the HR Council 'Game of Nations' where the OIC tries to rule the roost.
We would add, however, that this - and other attempts - to muzzle freedom of expression at the UN Human Rights Council is being more and more challenged by Western delegates, and it is also possible that the influence of cyberspace to convey such 'news' is having a beneficial effect too. What we were able to say in our 10 CHR statements last month in the absence of Egypt's comic trouble-maker is indicative.
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Landmark 'Sharia-gate Shipwreck' at the UNHRC and its aftermath
On 16 June 2008 (@16:40), we were given the floor at the 26th session by the president of the Human Rights Council, Romanian Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea, to deliver a joint statement for AWE and the International Humanist and Ethical Union on 'Integrating the Human Rights of Women throughout the United Nations system' (item 8). The first 'point of order' by Egypt's delegate came after our mention of 'FGM', and just before 'Egypt'. There were a total of 12 points of order: 7 by Egypt, 2 by Pakistan, 2 by the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1 by Cuba; with 4 positive points: 2 by Slovenia (for the EU), 1 by Canada, 1, Germany; and 11 explanations by the president, who gave the floor to me 4 times to conclude the original 3-minute statement. The entire verbatim text below, taken from the UN webcast, illustrates a common OIC tactic, especially used by Egypt and Pakistan, with backers (Cuba), but not only on his issue (China re: Tibet, etc.). It is reproduced for viewers to see how the gangrene is spreads if it is not challenged. Our statement at the end has [ ] brackets with documentation & auto-censored words on presidential advice.
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Courageous Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi
Our statement concluded with a quoted denunciation, the previous week in Geneva, by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi: that a girl in her native country, Iran, is considered an adult and liable to punishment, even execution, at 9 and a boy at 15; and her total rejection of "cultural relativism". Two months earlier she told Reuters that Iran's human rights record had regressed since 2006. After her Nobel Prize was confiscated, she released a statement: "Threats against my life and security and those of my family, which began some time ago, have intensified"; she was warned against speaking abroad and defending Iran's minorities. Nonetheless, she agreed to defend Baha'is arrested in Iran in May 2008. In a keynote address at Emory University School of Law ("Islam, Human Rights & Iran", October 17, 2008) at Atlanta (GE), she stated, inter alia: "I have always opposed the Islamic Declaration on Human Rights."
Two months later she spoke very courageously on Human Rights Day (10 December 2008) at the UN Palais des Nations. In anticipation, we prepared a question (below) and handing it to her after the debate.
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Question to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi on the 60th Anniversary: Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day
The Geneva Lecture Series
(Prince Albert of Monaco)
Nobel Prize Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Wole Soyinka
UN Assembly Hall, Palais des Nations, Geneva
Wednesday, 10 December (Human Rights Day)
Question to: Nobel Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi
By David G. Littman (Representative: AWE & WUPJ)
My question is addressed to Madam Shirin Ebadi.
Thank you for your remarkable frank speaking here and your courage - a true lesson for us all.
A year ago, on Human Rights Day 2007, OIC Secretary-General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu stated that the OIC General Secretariat is considering the establishment of an independent permanent body to promote Human Rights in Member States in accordance with the provision of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and to elaborate an OIC Charter on Human Rights.
Four days later, on 14 December 2007, Pakistan's Ambassador Masood Khan - speaking for the OIC at the Human Rights Council -claimed that the 1990 Cairo Declaration was "not an alternative competing worldview on human rights," but failed to mention that the shari'a law was "the only source of reference" in that Declaration's articles 24 and 25 - the same shari'a law in which there is no equality between Muslim men and women and Muslims and non-Muslims. The Final Communiqué of the 3rd Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Mecca Summit on 8 December 2005 had provided a clear message on this - and on the UN system of human rights.
Madam, do you feel that the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam - and a future Islamic Charter based on shari'a law - would clash with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and the International bill of Human Rights? To give one example: the marriage of girls at nine years old, as in Iran, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Thank you, Madam.
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OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu's UN "happy note" (1 March 2010)
On 1 March 2010, the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, delivered a statement at the opening 'High Segment' of the 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council. Having referred at length, as is customary, to "the plight and permanent suffering of the Palestinian people, under the continuous and deliberate aggression by Israeli military forces..." he then spoke of "promoting and protecting human rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir," followed by Islamophobia as "a contemporary form of racism." And: "Events like the recent ban on construction of Minarets in Switzerland continue to fuel our concerns." And then his "happy note" announcement:
Let me conclude on a happy note. I am pleased to inform this Council that the OIC is on the verge of establishing an Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights. The vision and the mandate for the establishment of the Commission was provided by the leadership of the OIC Ten-Year Programme of Action adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Islamic Summit held in Makkah Al-Mukarramah in [December] 2005. This vision was accorded a statuary status in the new OIC Charter, unanimously approved and entered into force in March 2008. (...)
Islam places a premium on human rights by according primacy to 'Hukook-ul-ibad' or the rights of people. We take pride that Islam was the first religion that called for full equality among people regardless of their race, language, ethnic origin, social status, etc. This equality has been associated with preserving human dignity, a concept that goes far beyond that of human rights. The establishment of the Commission will introduce a paradigm shift within the OIC in the way universal Human Rights and freedoms flow together with Islamic values to offer a coherent and strong system aimed at facilitating the full enjoyment of all Human Rights in the Member States.
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He thereby confirmed that the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI) continues to be hailed steadfastly by the OIC as having primacy - for its 57 Member States - over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have denounced this aberration at the Commission from January 1990, and in several articles since; as well as the publication of the Cairo Declaration, A Compilation of International Instruments Vol. II: Regional Instruments (UN-OHCHR, New York / Geneva, 1997). See here: International Bill Human Rights: Universality / International Standards / National Practices: E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/NGO/15. Nothing could be clearer than this solemn announcement by the OIC's Secretary-General.
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Complete verbatim transcript of the Landmark 16 June 2008 Sharia-gate Shipwreck
United Nations Human Rights Council- 8th Session (2 to 18 June 2008).
President: Romanian Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea
Item 8: Follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:
Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system (§141)
Proceedings from 16:40 - 18:05, Monday, 16 June 2008 (26th plenary meetings)
Joint statement by Association for World Education and International Humanist and Ethical Union
Speaker: AWE Representative David G. Littman
Mr. President, in the context of integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system, we wish to draw attention to four examples of widespread violence against women that we believe merits far greater attention from the Council.
1. Regarding FGM, we are making available our detailed written statement. [gavel]
President (Doru Romulus Costea): We have a point of order. Egypt you have the floor, sir.
Egypt: [Amr Roshdy Hassan] Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, I have a copy of this statement by the speaker. It is identical to the one made in December to which I made five points of order, to which you ruled...that you warned the speaker in December that this would be the last warning.
The 1st paragraph you talk about Al-Azhar, Egypt and the Sharia law. In the 2nd paragraph you talk about Sudan, Pakistan and the Sharia law. The 3rd and 4th paragraphs are on the Sharia law. So I don't know what is the point of making him continue his statement while we know it will be objective [sic] and while we know that the president made a ruling on the same statement in December. [This is incorrect] If we have no time to come on something new then we shouldn't speak. Thank you.
[Our statement should not have been made available to any delegate before it was delivered. Speakers are expected to provide 25 copies for the secretariat (interpreters, secretary, president, et al.)]
President: Thank you. I have a... Do I see any other requests from the floor on this matter? Pakistan, you have the floor.
Pakistan: [Imran Ahmed Siddiqui] Thank you very much Mr. President. Mr. President, the voices which we hear in this Council and the issues they raise are not unfamiliar. There is an agenda behind it and you have already given a ruling on the discussion of Sharia law in this Council. We have strong objections on any discussion, any direct or indirect discussion, any out of context, selective discussion on the Sharia law in this Council. I would therefore request the president to exercise his judgement and authority and request the speaker not to touch issues which have already been debarred from discussion in this Council. Thank you very much, Sir.
President: The distinguished representative of Slovenia.
Slovenia [Eva Tomic - Slovenia represented the EU, but omitted to say this then]: Thank you, Mr. President. I would remind both colleagues from Egypt and from Pakistan - this is a separate Council session. Any NGO representative has the right to make a statement within the merits of the agenda item under discussion. We see the statement being made pertaining within the purview of the agenda item and we don't see grounds for any restricting censorship in that respect. I thank you, Mr. President.
President: Thank you.... distinguished representative of Egypt.
Egypt: Mr. President, through you, sir, please sir, I would humbly and kindly ask my colleague from Slovenia to reconsider. What we are talking now about is not about the right of NGOs to speak but about the Sharia law and whether it is admissible to discuss it in this Council. I appeal to my colleague from Slovenia not to accept any discussion of the Sharia law in this Council because it will not happen. And we will not take this lightly. Now this is not about NGOs participation in the Council. Before the speaker... before that, one spoke as freely as we want on sexual orientation, gays and lesbians, yes, because they see it under the VDPA [Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action] and they have been touching on the VDPA and nobody objected. Now this is not about NGOs and their participation in the Council. Now, this is about the Sharia law. So I appeal to our colleagues not to get us there, because we will stay there and it's a good omen that we have these beautiful machines with us here because we will need them. Thank you. [Amr Roshdy Hassan raised his 'voting' machine as a threat - for an OIC-sponsored vote.]
President: Thank you. I don't see requests. You do not have the right of point of order sir, you are not a member of the Council, with all due respect [He sees Iran asking for the floor.]... Pakistan...
Pakistan: Mr. President, very respectfully, I would like to state again that this is not the forum to discuss religious sensitivity. It will amount to spreading hatred against certain members of the Council. I mean, it has happened before also that selective discussions were raised in the Council to demonise a particular group. So we would again request you to please use your authority to bar any such discussion again... at the Council. Thank you very much.
President: Thank you. I think that we are going downwards on quite a slippery slope here. Personally, I see two issues. One is whether we should or not discuss religious issues in a debate under the Vienna Declaration [and Programme of Action of 1993]. Two, whether we shall exercise a sort of pre-emptive move against statements that may be, or may not be heard in this room... Canada.
Canada: Thank you Mr. President. We are having a general debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The issues that are being raised here fall entirely within the scope of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. They concern rights. We consider it entirely appropriate that the NGO in question be permitted to continue. If we were, all of us, to not repeat anything that we had said before in a Council session, the sessions would be an awful lot shorter than they actually are. Thank you, Mr. President.
President: Egypt and then Slovenia.
Egypt: Mr. President, I am not speculating. I have a copy of this statement [waving it again]. I have listened carefully to the first paragraph. I've not interrupted. I tell you it was clear that the copy that I have in my hand... I am telling my colleagues from Canada and Slovenia so that everyone will bear the consequences, that this statement is about the Sharia law. I don't want anybody to say that they didn't know in advance. I have a copy here. If anybody doesn't believe me they can take a look at the statement. This statement will not be read in this Council without a vote. Thank you. [speaking with authority]
President: I would very kindly suggest that we sort of take a break. And come back in five minutes, in order to seek a better judgment. This meeting is suspended. [gavel]
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Nearly 45 minutes later after a long discussion between the president & OIC members the meeting continued. Littman spoke briefly at the podium to the president and was advised by him to avoid using the word sharia; if pronounced, he would be stopped and the two NGOs he represented risked being expelled from the UN by the Committee on NGOs. The Canadian ambassador also came up and advised Littman to be very careful from now on.
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President: Thank you for your understanding. We will resume and I will... there was also another request for the right of a...for a point of order that I have inadvertently missed. The delegation of Iran, you have the floor, sir.
Iran: Thank you Mr President. Actually I requested the floor for raising the point of order in support of what has been said by Egypt & Pakistan but apparently it was not acceptable so that was all. Thank you.
President: Thank you. Well, I hereby say that it was accepted and this is why I said I inadvertently missed it. I apologise to you for this procedural faux pas. Ladies and gentlemen, no need to hide behind whatever, so I will just ask your attention. Let me recall that before we suspended this meeting I made a remark and that remark has two points: One of the points was a warning on what the debate in this Council should not, repeat should not, slip into. I warned & I think I am in agreement with all of you here that this Council is not prepared to discuss religious matters in depth. Consequently we should not.
I would like to recall what I said in a previous session and it is in our record: "As long as a statement ... made with restraint from making a judgment or evaluation of a particular set of legislation, which is not in the point of our discussion, the speaker may continue." It was among ... within a circumstance that was quite similar as the same in which we are today. Having said that, I will give back the floor to the representative of the NGO in question, with the understanding that as long as the statement will restrain from making a judgment or evaluation of any particular set of legislation which is, indeed, not the point of our discussion, this statement may continue. Distinguished representative of Egypt you have the floor.
[The 'ruling' to which the president referred was made on 13 March 2008, when the Pakistani representative raised a point of order in a statement made by Roy Brown (for IHEU), and stated: "It is an insult to our faith to discuss Sharia law in this forum". The President, on that occasion, did not prohibit discussion of the word 'Sharia', but he said: "as long as the speaker refrains from making evaluative judgments of any system of law, he may continue"]
Egypt: Thank you, Mr. President. Now you have made your ruling we will listen attentively to the statement. At the first attempt to link any bad practices to a certain religion, in any way, we will reply to your ruling. Thank you.
President [showing much indignation]: Thank you... May I say for the record as well, that I was in much more comfortable positions ...in this chair ... than this position ... when ... a statement of mine is challenged point blank...Thank you. You have the floor [looking toward the NGO speaker].
David G. Littman: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Regarding FGM, our detailed written statement discusses the reasons why 96% of Egyptian women are still subjected to FGM despite State legislation in 1997 outlawing the practice. "Almost 90% of the female population in the north of Sudan undergo FGM which, in many cases, is practised in its most extreme form known as infibulation" - we are quoting from the Report by the Special Rapporteur Halima Warzazi [Morocco/Sub-Commission]. UNICEF figures indicate that over 3 million young girls are mutilated each year in 32 countries, 29 of which are Member States of the OIC. We believe that only a fatwa from Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi, replacing the ambiguous fatwas of 1949, 1951 & 1981, will change this barbaric, criminal practice [gavel], which is now growing even in Europe [gavel : president gives floor to Egypt for point of order]
Egypt: [Hassan very agitated] Mr. President, with all due respect I would like to challenge your ruling and according to rule 115 we should proceed to a vote now. This is an attempt to raise a bad traditional practice to Islam. Sheikh Al-Azhar is the president of the largest and the biggest and the oldest Islamic university in the world. This is not the understanding we had when you allowed this speaker to continue. I am afraid I will have no other option but to challenge your ruling regardless of the result of the challenge... of the rule [jabbing his right forefinger on the desk to make his point very clear regarding a vote].
President: I am sorry. I didn't understand the last part.
Egypt: My last part, sir, is that is... regardless of the result of the vote... I couldn't care less if I will win or lose this vote. My point is that Islam will not be crucified in this Council. That's why we are challenging this ruling, and the result of the vote will be indicative to what all delegations think on this issue and it will be a matter of discussion later between the OIC and the other... our colleagues from other groups. Thank you.
["I couldn't care less if I will win or lose this..." were on the webcast in June 2008, but later... deleted.]
President: All right. Let me have a look at what I have said and also have a look at what the speaker has just read. [After a 5-10 minute recess, the plenary meeting resumed.]
President: Thank you, I feel like repeating what I have said before. I said that the statement should refrain from making judgments or evaluations of a particular religion. We've just heard that a certain act, which is a fatwa, is considered ambiguous. Now this is a judgment, this is an evaluation, so I would say, I would kindly ask the speaker to bear in mind this and I can promise that the next evaluation of a religious feat [? Inaudible word], law, document, I will interrupt the speaker and we will go on to the next one. You have the floor, sir...Germany... there's a point of order:
Germany: Mr. President, I would kindly, through you, ask the Egyptian delegation and its representative... if I did understand and hear right in his last intervention... he seemed to have said and I quote - and I apologise if I did not understand this correctly... my understanding was, quote: "Islam will not be crucified in this Council". And I would like this statement confirmed and if it is confirmed I would ask you, Mr. President, whether you consider this appropriate with regard to the question of mentioning religion and its symbols?
President: Thank you. Before giving the floor to the Egyptian... distinguished...Egyptian delegate, I would kindly ask everybody ... to take a deep breath. [laughter]. Let's try and get back to our normal mode, to our decent and reasonable approach of topics that are sensitive... sure. Distinguished delegate of Egypt, you have the floor, sir. [Neither the president nor Egypt replied to Germany's question.]
Egypt: Mr. President, abiding by the first and the second rulings you've made, which are not different in my opinion, I would ask to delete any references to the fatwa of Sheikh Al-Azhar [Grand Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi] and to delete all references to Sheikh Al-Azhar from this paragraph and from the official records of the meeting. Thank you. [The president gave the floor to the speaker without a 'ruling'.]
David G. Littman: "The Government of Pakistan vigorously condemns the practice of so-called 'Honour Killings' and that such actions do not find any place in our religion or law." - this is a quotation from President Musharraf on 28 April 2000. Yet this murderous practice seems to be on the increase in Pakistan and elsewhere - even in Europe in certain communities. It must be criminalized and the law strictly applied. The stoning of women for alleged adultery still occurs regularly in Iran, Sudan and other countries. In Iran, they are buried up to their waists in pits and blunt stones are used, thereby increasing their agony in death. The marriage-age for girls in Iran remains at 9 years old. In the year 2000, the Iranian Parliament attempted to increase the age to 14 but the law was overturned by the Council of Guardians. Last week ... [The President recognized a point of order]
Iran: Thank you, Mr President. With all respect to your rule and to yourself, Mr. President, the statement and the references made by this speaker in this statement is false and has nothing to do with the realities in my country. I just wanted, for the record... he said that "the stoning of women for alleged adultery still occurs regularly in Iran." It's not true it is completely false & is out of the question. Thank you. [Islamic Republic of Iran Penal Code, Art. 102: "The stoning of an adulterer or adulteress shall be carried out while each is placed in a hole and covered with soil, he up to his waist and she up to a line above her breasts." Art. 104: (...) the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could be defined as stones."]
President: Thank you. I thought you were asking the floor for a 'point of order', sir, and it would have been granted to you. I think that what you said amounts to a 'right of reply', which is still a right you can exercise, if you request it, at the end of the consideration of this item. So I just wanted to highlight this situation to you... Cuba raises a point of order.
Cuba: [speaking in Spanish. An unofficial translation - no UN translation available on the UN webcast.] Yes, Mr. President, in reality when we refer to the content of what this person has been saying... in the first place, a malpractice of the same gentlemen in the Human Rights Council led to the suspension of the NGO from the Council of Human Rights. Now, in what is a segment of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, he's introducing a theme that in any case should have been addressed under item 4 of the agenda ["country situations"]. In that case, you have to interrupt his statement. He is making a list of references to countries using practices that do not relate to the agenda item under discussion [item 8] and what he should do is keep his intervention for the item 4 discussion when we meet again in September. Thank you, Mr. President.
[The "suspension" remark is inaccurate. On the initiative of the OIC, Cuba sent a letter of complaint (13 May) as Chair of the NAM (Non-Aligned Movement, representing 125 States), to the UN Committee on NGOs to cancel the accreditation of the World Union for Progressive Judaism for a statement by Littman on 24 January 2008 for WUPJ concerning Gaza. After being stopped 3 times by the president, he said: "Rather than speak, I will conclude with one sentence...There is a general malaise in the air, a feeling that something is rotten in the state of... this Council." (http://webcast.un.org/ramgen/ondemand/ conferences/unhrc/special/6th/hrco80124am-eng.rm?start=01:15:27&end=01:19:14) That 'case' was being debated at the UN in New York, but the OIC's attempt to oust WUPJ (not just DGL) failed.]
President: Thank you. Before going on with the list of points of order, may I recall that a similar debate occurred in this Council some time ago and then we emphasised that on approaching item 8, which is the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and its Programme of Action, we may refer to the way in which various rights in these documents are implemented - because this is what we are doing. Having said that we cannot refer to these implementations in abstract; we agreed that it may be exemplified.
So, from this point of view, we have heard in this statement so far two or three examples which would - to my reading - not qualify this statement as an item 4 statement. It is not a country situation. We have two requests of rights of points of order, Slovenia and Jordan ... Slovenia.
Slovenia [speaking for the EU]: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First I would like to clarify that the EU agrees with your ruling, that you have made, and I would also like to make clear that the EU is not linking in any way the FGM with any religion or for that matter with Islam. Just for clarification, I would like to say this very clearly in this Council. With regard to the last point of order we have heard, we again agree with the explanation you have just provided to us that, indeed, statements can be exemplified as long as they are linked to the agenda item at hand, and I would also like to reiterate that we are going to listen very carefully, with attention and with respect, to any explanation that any delegation may wish to offer in replying to the statement being made or any other statements being made in their form of right of reply. I thank you very much.
[Curiously, there is no record of the Jordan's point of order, although he spoke. The video begins with the NGO speaker asked by the president to continue his statement].
David G. Littman: Thank you Mr. President. Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system is part of item 8 under paragraph 140 [§141]. I will conclude, sir.Last week Nobel Peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, speaking in Geneva, denounced the fact that in Iran a girl is considered an adult and liable to punishment, even execution, at 9 and a boy at 15. She rejects the concept of "cultural relativism", as does the French Secretary of State for Urban Affairs, Fadela Amara, who recently strongly criticised the ruling of a French judge in Lille for annulling a marriage between two Muslims because the girl lied about her virginity in the marriage contract. Ms. Amara rightly called this aberration, and I quote: "a real fatwa against the emancipation [gavel] and the liberty of women. [2nd gavel]. Thank you, Mr. President - I was quoting a Minister in France. [these last words are only just audible]
President: Your time is up, sir. Thank you. Having said that, this will bring us to the end of this day. We will resume our list of speakers tomorrow when we will also close this item and will consider item 9....
The meeting closed at 18:05. Duration: nearly 1½ hours, including two breaks for up to 50 minutes; the overall speaking time was under 30 minutes; our NGO statement would have taken 3 minutes.
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Below is the exact text handed to the Council Secretariat (25 copies for interpreters, etc.), prior to its delivery, by David G. Littman as a joint oral statement for the Association for World Education (AWE) and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
[Passages in round brackets were not spoken after the president's advice; the documentation in smaller type and square brackets would not have been pronounced during the 3 minutes available for NGOs.]
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In the context of integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations System, we wish to draw attention to four examples of widespread violence against women that we believe merit far greater attention from the Council. Regarding FGM, we are making available our detailed written statement...
[E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/NGO/27: Background on "Traditional or Customary Practices" /Female Genital Mutilation & the Arabic text & translations, certified by Al-Azhar University, the authoritative source for Shafi'i school of Sunni law, widely adhered to in Egypt]
[The 1st point of order by Egypt came here; total 16 (7 by Egypt), and 11 comments by the president.]
...which discusses the reasons why 96% of Egyptian women are still subjected to FGM, despite State legislation in 1997 outlawing the practice [Sara Corbett "A Cutting Tradition" NYT Mag. 20/1/08]
"Almost 90% of the female population in the north of Sudan undergo FGM which, in many cases, is practised in its most extreme form known as infibulation" - we are quoting from the Report of Special Rapporteur Halima Warzazi [E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/41, §24]. UNICEF figures indicate that over 3 million young girls are mutilated each year in 32 countries, 29 of which are Member States of the OIC. We believe that only a fatwa from Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Sayyad Tantawi - replacing the ambiguous fatwas of 1949, 1951 & 1981 - will change this barbaric, criminal practice, which is now growing even in Europe.
2. The number of "honour killings" is on the increase, worldwide. [Ten years ago in 1998, there were a reported 300 cases of honour killings in one province of Pakistan alone. Mufti Ziauddin "Status of Court Cases for Murdered Women; and BBC film, Home programme, 8 April 2000.] On 28 April 2000, President Musharraf declared that "The Government of Pakistan vigorously condemns the practice of so-called 'Honour Killings' and that such actions do not find any place in our religion or law." Yet this murderous practice seems to be on the increase in Pakistan and elsewhere - even in Europe in certain communities. It must be criminalised and the law strictly applied.
3. The stoning of women for alleged adultery still occurs regularly in Iran, Sudan and other (Muslim) countries (that apply Shari'a law). In Iran, they are buried up to their waists in pits and (by law) blunt stones are used thereby increasing their agony in death.
4. The marriage age for girls in Iran remains at 9 years (based on Shari'a law). In the year 2000, the Iranian Parliament attempted to increase the age to 14 but the law was overturned by the Council of Guardians, (claiming Quaranic justification) ["Islamic scholars have put a lot of efforts into these laws."- Iran Bill to End Marriage at 9. Guardian Consent Still Needed", IHT, 10 August 2000] Last week, Noble Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, speaking in Geneva, denounced the fact that in Iran a girl is considered an adult and liable to punishment, even execution at 9, and a boy at 15. [Le Temps, 10 June 2008]. She rejects the concept of cultural relativism, as does the French Secretary of State for Urban Affairs, Fadela Amara, who recently strongly criticised the ruling of a French judge in Lille for annulling a marriage between two Muslims because the girl lied about her virginity in the marriage contract. Ms. Amara rightly called this aberration "a real fatwa against the emancipation and liberty of women." [Steven Erlanger, "Muslim minister tackles French suburbs: Blunt talker refuses to accept 'injustices'", Int. Herald Tribune, 14-15 June 2008]
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