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The UNO Convention and ECLA Regional Agreements PDF Print E-mail

Giulio Murano, International Federation of Human Rights, Italy

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom in Latin America and the New Millennium"
October 10-12, 1998, Sheraton Mofarrej Hotel, Sao Paolo, Brazil

hank you Mr. Chairman. I want to stress an importance, as you well know, of international treaties and covenants adopted by international bodies, particularly by the United Nations, to realize effective conditions of the enforcement of the principles and rules related to human rights. To do this we must examine the fundamental scheme and institutional perspective of the most important human rights—UN treaties with particular emphasis on the legal aspect of religious freedom, its system of guarantees and the connection with international rules related to the situation in Latin America.

Taking this into account this report is based on a compilation of information of the international instrument of the United Nations. It appears that ICRF has the ability to discuss hypotheses and solutions to affirm the fundamental right of religious freedom before the society, and particularly before the powers utilizing their information, participation, partnership and cultural cooperation and to negate the tendency toward intolerance.

Coming into the subject, we can see that the concern in the United Nations with the promotion and perfection of human rights and fundamental freedoms starts from the consciousness of the international community that recognizes that the equal and inalienable rights of the human family are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. As stated in the first paragraph of the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN seeks the promotion of universal respect for and service of human rights and other fundamental freedoms, as stated at the sixth paragraph of the same preamble.

The specific inclusion among the stated purposes of the United Nations of the promotion and encouragement of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all was due primarily to the events which occurred immediately before and during the Second World War. The responsibility for this new departure was given under the authority of the General Assembly. The Economic and Social Council of the United Nations was so empowered, among other things, as to make a recommendation on its own initiative with respect with international economic, social, and humanitarian matters. The Charter of the United Nations signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 entered in force on the October 24, 1945.

The General Assembly is empowered under Article 13 to initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose specifically of assisting in the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. And in accordance with the provisions of Articles 68, the Economic and Social Committee for Human Rights, the Committee on the Status of Women and Subcommittee on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The Committee on Human Rights meets once a year in Geneva for six weeks or exceptionally between its regular sessions by authority of resolution 48-1990.

A number of the United Nations human rights instruments contain provisions where any dispute between the conflicting parties related to interpretation or application of the instrument may be submitted to the International Court of Justice. Among them we are interested in the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education of 14 December 1960 and it is necessary to stress that the charter of the International Conference of Human Rights specifically provides for adjudication by the International Court of Justice. Therefore, the United Nations’ bodies have produced an impressive series of international conventions and declarations. And these instruments are designed to promote and to protect the enjoyment by everyone of human rights and other political freedoms. The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities also conducts a study on the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, provided for at its 24th Session, Resolution Six, and a study on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religions or belief prepared at its 36th Session, Resolution 31.

United Nations’ bodies formulate international standards in the field of human rights, and by preparing and adopting or declining recommendations and declarations which are usually of broad international implication or by preparing for ratification conventions, sometimes called cannons, which are legally binding upon states accepting them as such.

Identification of relating to the liberation or elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief, the protocol prepared by the Subcommittee initiated a study of discrimination in the field of religious rights and practice at its 1953 session and by the end of 1981, 28 years after the first study was initiated the General Assembly of the United Nations, finally was able to adopt and proclaim the Declaration for the Elimination of All Forms on Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religious Belief.

In its resolution 2200 of 16 December 1966, the General Assembly adopted, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its related Optional Protocol. The adopting of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights provided for protection of the right of freedom of thought conscience and religion and Article 27 provides measures for the protection of members of such ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities as may exist in the territories of the states party to the covenant.