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The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief is an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. The mandate holder has been invited to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles.

Historical background

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights appointed further to resolution 1986/20 a “Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance”. In 2000, the Commission on Human Rights decided to change the mandate title to “Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief”, which was subsequently endorsed by ECOSOC decision 2000/261 and welcomed by General Assembly resolution 55/97. On 18 June 2010, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 14/11 which, inter alia, extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years.

Mandate

The Special Rapporteur has been mandated through Human Rights Council resolution 6/37 (see full text in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and Russian):

- to promote the adoption of measures at the national, regional and international levels to ensure the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief;

- to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles;

- to continue her/his efforts to examine incidents and governmental actions that are incompatible with the provisions of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and to recommend remedial measures as appropriate;

- to continue to apply a gender perspective, inter alia, through the identification of gender-specific abuses, in the reporting process, including in information collection and in recommendations.

Working methods

In the discharge of the mandate, the Special Rapporteur:

a)     transmits urgent appeals and letters of allegation to States with regard to cases that represent infringements of or impediments to the exercise of the right to freedom of religion and belief.

b)     undertakes fact-finding country visits.

c)     submits annual reports to the Human Rights Council, and General Assembly, on the activities, trends and methods of work.

Current and previous mandate-holders

Mr. Heiner BielefeldtOn 1 August 2010, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt assumed his mandate as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. Mr. Bielefeldt’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Mr. Bielefeldt's full CV is available here.

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Special Rapporteurs:

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief upon concluding his country visit to Paraguay (30 March 2011):
English | Spanish

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, during the 16th session of the Human Rights Council and summary of the interactive dialogue (10 March 2011)

An e-Digest on Freedom of Religion or Belief – 25 years of thought by four UN Special Rapporteurs" (10 March 2011): Download the PDF file with the Rapporteur's Digest on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Pakistan: UN experts condemn killing of Minorities Minister and urge protection of minorities in law and in practice (2 March 2011)

Joint submission for the OHCHR expert workshop on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred (expert workshop on Europe, 9-10 February 2011, Vienna) by Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Mr. Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and Mr. Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, to the sixteenth session of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/16/53), available in Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Spanish and Russian (15 December 2010)

Summary of the interactive dialogue with the GA Third Committee (21 October 2010)

Statement by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, during the 65th session of the General Assembly in New York (21 October 2010)

“Without human rights, Millennium Goals will fail,” say UN Human Rights Experts (17 September 2010)

Joint statement by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression delivered during the OHCHR side-event on freedom of expression and incitement to racial or religious hatred, 22 April 2009.

 
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