Combating all forms of discrimination based on religion
- Parliamentary Assembly
- Text adopted by
the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 25
November 2011 (see Doc.
12788, report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human
Rights, rapporteur: Mr Panţiru). See also Recommendation 1987 (2011).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly notes
that Europe, which has been historically shaped by monotheist religions,
has become home to varied religious beliefs, including new ones.
However, members of minority religious groups are vulnerable to
intolerance and discrimination.
2. The Assembly reaffirms its strong stance against the persecution
of religious communities and condemns all acts of violence based
on religion, in Europe and elsewhere. It invites member states to
take stronger measures to combat any discrimination on grounds of
religion or belief.
3. The Assembly also reiterates its support for the separation
of state and church (see Recommendation 1804 (2007) on state, religion,
secularity and human rights and Recommendation 1396 (1999) on religion
and democracy). The autonomy of religious communities is indispensable
for pluralism in a democratic society, and governments should remain
neutral and impartial vis-à-vis religions and beliefs. In member
states where, for historical reasons, a specific faith has a leading
role, other religious groups should not be discriminated against and
the same criteria for the granting of legal status, where legally
required, should be applied to all religious groups.
4. The Assembly recalls the Council of Europe’s acquis in the area of freedom of
thought, conscience and religion. The European Court of Human Rights
has developed a comprehensive body of case law on Article 9 of the
European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5). The right to hold
or not to hold a belief and to change religion as a matter of conscience
is an absolute right. The right to manifest one’s religion is not unlimited,
but any restrictions on it must be “prescribed by law” and “necessary
in a democratic society”, and must pursue a legitimate aim.
Consequently, the Assembly calls on Council of Europe member
5.1 promote a culture
of “living together” based on religious pluralism, in accordance
with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
5.2 remain neutral and impartial in exercising their regulatory
powers and in their relations with various religions; any preferential
treatment given to some religious communities in view of their historical
role must strictly comply with the case law of the European Court
of Human Rights;
5.3 grant all religious communities the possibility to obtain
a legal status;
5.4 abolish outdated legislation and administrative practices
causing discrimination against certain religious groups;
5.5 when enacting legislation and implementing appropriate
policies, strive to accommodate the needs of different religions
and beliefs in a pluralist society, provided that any such measures
do not infringe the rights of others;
5.6 adopt legislation to penalise hate speech and the use
of violence against members of religious groups and religious leaders,
in accordance with the recommendations of the European Commission against
Racism and Intolerance (ECRI); such legislation should in particular
make effective remedies available to victims;
5.7 ensure that investigative authorities conduct effective
investigations into acts of violence based on religion or belief;
5.8 promote dialogue with religious leaders, including those
of new religious communities, provided they support universal fundamental
values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.