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Sharia versus the Convention on Human Rights: protect human rights regardless of religious practices

PACE's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is greatly concerned that Sharia law, including provisions clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, is applied officially or unofficially in several Council of Europe member states, in all or part of their territory.

In particular, it expressed great concern that three Council of Europe member states - Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey - as well as Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Palestine, whose parliaments enjoy ‘Partner for Democracy’ status with PACE, are signatories to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam of 1990.

Although not legally binding, this Declaration “has symbolic value and political significance in terms of human rights policy under Islam” yet it “fails to reconcile Islam with universal human rights, especially insofar as it maintains Sharia law as its unique source of reference” and does not recognise certain rights, the committee said in a resolution adopted today.

The countries concerned should consider withdrawing from the Cairo Declaration. They should make use of all available means to make statements that the 1990 Cairo Declaration has no effect on their domestic legal orders that may be inconsistent with their obligations as Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights, or adopt a formal act which clearly establishes the Convention as a superior source of obligatory binding norms.

On the basis of a report by Antonio Gutierrez (Spain, SOC) on “The compatibility of Sharia law with the European Convention on Human Rights: can States Parties to the Convention be signatories to the ‘Cairo Declaration’?”, the committee called on the countries concerned « to protect human rights regardless of religious or cultural practices or traditions. »

The committee also expressed concern at the "judicial" activities of "Sharia Councils" in the United Kingdom. While welcoming the recommendations put forward in the conclusions of the Home Office Independent Review into the Application of Sharia Law in England and Wales, it called on the authorities to ensure that Sharia councils operate within the law, especially as it relates to the prohibition of discrimination against women.

Noting the legislative change in Greece which made the practice of Islamic sharia law in civil and inheritance matters optional for the Muslim minority, the committee called on the Greek authorities to monitor whether this legislative change will be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.