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Human Rights in Islamic Countries

Archive for March, 2014

OIC takes steps to empower women

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


WOMAN POWER: Maha Akeel, chief editor of OIC Journal, delivering the opening statement and introducing the short film made by the Information Department for the occasion. (An photo)

JEDDAH, by HABIB SHAIKH  | Published — Tuesday 11 March 2014

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) celebrated International Women’s Day at its headquarters on Sunday.

This is the first time that the organization held an event to mark the occasion in support and appreciation of women and their role in society.

The OIC event focused in particular on Muslim women and the challenges they face, whether at home, at work or in society.

The OIC is mandated to explore opportunities for women to take part in the development of Muslim society and enhance their capacity in order to enable them to play an active role in all walks of life in its 57 member states.

Invitees were briefed on the various programs, projects and activities undertaken by the OIC to empower women and advance their status during numerous presentations made by the organization’s different departments.

The OIC highlighted its programs, projects and activities in various fields, such as education, health, humanitarian, economy and human rights domains, in support of women in the Muslim world.

The celebration included a photo and caricature exhibition and a short film highlighting the obstacles to women enjoying their full rights. The event also highlighted achievements and success stories of women in those states.

Ambassador Abdullah Ali, assistant secretary-general for Political Affairs, welcomed invitees from the diplomatic corps, intellectuals and media personalities on behalf of Secretary-General Iyad Madani.

Ali said that the anniversary demonstrates the interest and honor devoted to Muslim women by expressing collective pride in their distinctive status and roles, confirmation of their legitimate rights and unwavering support for their contributions as full-fledged partners in construction, development and progress in the Muslim world.

The event was celebrated under the slogan “Equality for women is progress for all,” reflecting an approach that has become a prerequisite for women’s empowerment.

The event also sought to address the conditions of economic vulnerability, social exclusion and injustice under which Muslim women live, which include deprivation of education and the right to a decent life.

Ali said that the OIC believes that helping women improve their status and strengthening the role of legislative bodies will guarantee women protection against discrimination and violence and would ensure their participation in the development and decision-making process.

Member states had adopted an action plan for women’s advancement based on political commitments and pledges made by the Extraordinary Islamic Summit Conference in Makkah in 2005.

Source: Arab News

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OIC Rights (IPHRC) 4th Session

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


JEDDAH, by IBRAHIM NAFFEE | Published — Monday 3 February 2014

The OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) began its fourth session in Jeddah on Sunday in the presence of new secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation Iyad Madni and chairman of the OIC IPHRC Ambassador Muhammad Kawu Ibrahim.

The commission will have in-depth discussions during its five-day event on some very important and contemporary issues such as Islamophobia and discrimination based on religion, human rights violations of Palestinian people and the situation of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

In the weeklong session, the commission is expected to comprehensively discuss all issues on its agenda, including the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in the OIC member states.

Source: Arab News

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OIC seeks rights debates based on Islamic values

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


Iyad Madani, OIC SG

JEDDAH: HABIB SHAIKH | Published — Tuesday 4 February 2014

One of the major challenges of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is finding ways to enrich global human rights debates with Islamic values and principles, said Iyad Madani, the newly appointed OIC secretary-general.

In a statement issued at the fourth session of the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC), on Sunday here, Madani said that current international human rights laws are based on Western values.

He said the OIC was looking particularly at limitations on freedom of expression, gender equality, applying human rights in accordance with the OIC member states’ constitutional and legal systems, and stopping the spread of extremism.

With reference to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights and major UN human rights instruments, he said most OIC countries have “willingly adopted and implemented international human rights norms. However, there are a number of issues that go beyond the normal scope of human rights and clash with Islamic teachings,” Madani said in the statement.

Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right, but despite “repeated incidents of hatred and violence resulting from discrimination based on stereotyping and stigmatization of individuals, communities and religions, some countries continue to refuse any limitations or responsible use of this right,” Madani said.

“Muslim countries wanting to ensure respect for the sanctity and reputation of religious values, scriptures and personalities for the promotion of peace in society are criticized for limiting this freedom through blasphemy laws.”

“One of the main issues related to the gender equality debate is the very definition of the term gender. While OIC countries prefer to use the notion of equality between men and women, Western countries push for the term ‘gender,’ which goes beyond the normal definition of man and woman into the direction of how one perceives him or herself rather than his or her actual physical appearance.”

“Another challenge facing the commission is that all references to human rights in the OIC documents stipulate that these principles should be applied in accordance with the member states’ constitutional and legal systems.”

He said there needs to be a way found to define these stipulations, and create “a yardstick that each individual member state can look at to measure the distance between the Islamic human rights model and its own laws and practices,” he said.

Another important challenge was how to “deprive the extreme voices” in member states from claiming they represent Islam.

“The road ahead is full of challenges, but the OIC now has the framework and mechanism to move ahead, and the commission is the spearhead of this effort,” Madani said.

He said that the OIC takes pride in the fact that Islam was the first religion that laid down universal fundamental rights for humanity. The OIC had since its inception taken care to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, safeguard the rights of women and their participation in all spheres of life, and assist Muslim minorities and communities outside the member states to preserve their dignity, and cultural and religious identities.

The OIC charter stipulated the formation of the IPCHR, as one of its organs to promote civil, political, social and economic rights in conformity with Islamic values.

In its 10-year strategic plan, approved in Makkah in 2005, the OIC asserted that it was important for member states to revive the Muslim Ummah’s pioneering role on rights issues. They should expand the scope of political participation, ensure equality, civil liberties and social justice, promote transparency and accountability, and eliminate corruption.

The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam embodies the OIC’s most complete statement on human rights in Islam. Other documents followed suit including the covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam and the OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women.

“The commission has done commendable work on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories; on the issue of discrimination and intolerance against Muslims and on the issue of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” Madani said.

The commission also established four working groups to address these issues in an effective and sustained fashion: on Palestine, on the Rights of Women and of the Child, on Islamophobia and Muslim minorities, and on Right to Development. It also created an ad hoc working group to establish a proper framework for interaction between the IPHRC and member states’ human rights institutions and civil society organizations.

Source: Arab News

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Fourth Session of the IPHRC

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


Jeddah | February 5, 2014

IGO welcomes the discussion at the Commission’s fourth session and supports the Commission’s objectives to strengthen the global framework of human rights collectively.

On February 2nd, the fourth session of the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission started in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where the panelists will sit for five days to discuss civil, political, social and economic rights in the Member States.

The Commission is the principal organ of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the domain of human rights.

Iyad Amin Madani, the Secretary General of OIC, pointed to four challenges facing the Commission: limitations on freedom of expression, gender equality, applying human rights in accordance with the Member States constitutional and legal systems, and stopping the spread of extreme voices in the Member States.

Madani stressed extremism is a violation of all rights of Muslims as Islam is the first religion that laid down a framework for human rights and he called for all Muslims to spread the message of Islam as a guarantor of human rights and tackle extremism and fanaticism.

The Commission has done commendable work to help minorities and Muslim communities outside the Member States to maintain their dignity, culture and religious identity, particularly in Palestine and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The Commission consists of 18 Members, who serve in their personal capacity in supporting Member States for the promotion and protection of human rights for all in an independent manner, in accordance with the OIC Charter and its Statute.

Source: IGO

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Human rights experts’ recommendations to Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


10 November 2013 | by Turan Kayaoglu  and Marie Juul Petersen 

The international human rights community faces daunting challenges in advancing human rights in the Muslim world.
Despite being well placed to address those challenges, the most important organization among Muslim states, the OIC, has so far failed to do so. Over the course of the past decade, the OIC has been working to correct this. It has become an active participant in international debates concerning human rights.
In 2008, the organiza¬tion’s charter was revised to include the promo¬tion and protection of “human rights and funda¬mental freedoms” among its goals. The revised charter also paved the way for an Independent Permanent Commission on Human Rights (IPHRC) to promote the civil, social, and economic rights enshrined in the organization’s human rights documents. In establishing the IPHRC and thereby formalizing its human rights agenda, the OIC has taken an important step in the right direction.
In September, a group of specialists in Islam and human rights came together at the Danish Institute for Human Rights in Copenhagen to discuss the IPHRC’s potential as an advocate for human rights in OIC’s member states. The group formulated a set of recommendations which were sent to the OIC, outlined at the end of this article.

Introduction

In June 2011, foreign ministers of countries part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) met in Kazakhstan to establish a new human rights commission: The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC). After first meeting in Jakarta in February 2012 and Ankara in August 2012, the commission concluded its third session in Jeddah in October 2013.

With a mandate to ”advance human rights” and “support the Member States’ efforts to consolidate civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights,” the IPHRC has the potential to become a much-needed forum for constructive exchange of experiences, introspection and internal criticism among OIC member states. As a government representative said at the meeting in Kazakhstan: “It will be 100 times better to hear what is happening in our countries from our own people rather than from the outside world.” But if the IPHRC is to live up to its potential and not end up serving as window-dressing for notorious human rights violators, it needs to strengthen and clarify its position with regard to a number of areas.

Introducing human rights to the OIC agenda

The OIC was founded in 1969 for the purpose of strengthening solidarity among Muslims. In its first decades, the organization focused especially on the Palestinian cause, the protection of Islamic holy sites and the strengthening of economic cooperation between member states.

Currently, as an intergovernmen¬tal body, it is second only to the UN in terms of membership and scope. It has 57 members – most, not all, are Muslim-majority states. It deals with a range of issues: peace and conflict resolu-tion, Muslim minority communities, women’s and children’s rights, humanitarian assistance, com¬bating Islamophobia, the promotion of intra-OIC trade and investment, cultural exchange, and education.

International human rights were not high on the agenda. On the contrary, in 1991, the organization presented the so-called Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, introducing what many human rights scholars considered an alternative set of rights that were based on certain interpretations of Islamic law that are contrary to international human rights standards. Together with the grave human rights violations of many member states, initiatives such as this one have given the OIC a dubious reputation with respect to international human rights.

In 2005, a plan to reform the organization, the “Ten-Year Programme of Action,” was introduced, resulting in major changes. An important part of this was the introduction of human rights to the OIC agenda, in particular the establishment of the IPHRC.  “Establishment of an independent human rights body by the OIC Member States is considered to be one of the major steps in the transformation process of the OIC,” an OIC newsletter states.

The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission

The IPHRC was formally established in June 2011 and held its first session in January 2012. The commission consists in 18 experts, of whom six are from the Arab member states, six from the Asian member states and six from African member states. All experts are elected for a period of four years. According to the statutes, the IPHRC and its 18 experts will work to “advance human rights” and “support the Member States’ efforts to consolidate civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.” This is to be done through providing counseling and legal advice to member states, information campaigns, research and cooperation with other human rights organizations.

At the inaugural speech in IPHRC’s first session in Jakarta in 2012 and during the opening remarks at the third session on Oct. 26, 2013 in Jeddah, the secretary-general, Professor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, outlined five principles. First, the commission will complement rather than replace other national and international human rights mechanisms. Second, it will follow an introspective approach, helping OIC member states improve human rights practices. Third, it will fulfill a guidance function, providing member states with services like human rights training for the police. Fourth, it will take an incremental approach, building its credibility and mandate over time. And finally, the commission will prioritize the most pressing hu¬man rights problems. These principles put forward by İhsanoğlu were also endorsed by the commission.

Human rights experts’ recommendations to the IPHRC

In September 2013, the Danish Institute for Human Rights invited a group of international human rights researchers to discuss the OIC’s new human rights approach, with a particular focus on the IPHRC. Due to the relative novelty of the IPHRC and the scarcity of concrete initiatives, statements and activities proposed by the commission so far, the researchers did not find that there was ground for an evaluation of the IPHRC as such.

The specialists also noted that despite its shortcomings, the IPHRC has poten¬tial to become an advocate of human rights in the OIC’s member states. To this end, the group formulated a number of recommendations for the commission to take into consideration in its future work.

The following recommendations, proposed by the human rights experts, whose members are listed below, offer concrete suggestions for how the IPHRC can realize its mission in a way that is consistent with the above five principles that İhsanoğlu outlined and the commission endorsed.

The IPHRC should affirm and uphold internationally agreed upon human rights standards and instruments. This includes:

  • Recognition by commissioners that OIC member states are bound by international human rights obligations.
  • Agreement among commissioners that international human rights treaties constitute minimum standards and that regional human rights instruments must always meet, or exceed, these minimum standards.
  • Agreement among commissioners to use only international human rights law as the benchmark in assessing all human rights issues, and clarification of the status of the Cairo Declaration to this end.
  • Review of existing member states’ reservations to international human rights treaties, and elaboration of recommendations to remove reservations that undermine the object and purpose of the treaty in question.
  • Affirmation of Shariah consistency with international human rights law by rejecting interpretations of Shariah that violate or undermine international human rights law and by elaborating alternative interpretations that respect and further international human rights law.

The IPHRC should encourage and practice transparency and accessibility in its activities. This includes:

  • Publication of a comprehensive calendar of meeting times and places well in advance to facilitate participation from civil society, media and other actors interested in the IPHRC.
  • Establishment of a system for the rotation of sessions across member states.
  • Development and maintenance of a regularly updated website with information on IPHRC activities and statements, as well as other human rights-related OIC activities.
  • Establishment of an IPHRC secretariat in a place that is easily accessible to civil society, media and others within and outside the OIC.

The IPHRC should engage with civil society and encourage its participation in the IPHRC’s work. This includes:

  • Facilitation of civil society access to IPHRC sessions.
  • Organization of civil society forums in parallel with all IPHRC sessions.
  • Establishment of cooperation with human rights-related think tanks and research institutions inside and outside the OIC member states.
  • Facilitation of inter-sessional dialogue with civil society organizations.
  • Facilitation of human rights and civil society organizations’ access and lobby to the member states’ governments.

The IPHRC should engage in regional and international collaboration. This includes:

  • Adoption of a common strategy with regional organizations (e.g., the OSCE, or Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) for addressing issues of religious intolerance.
  • Establishment of institutionalized relations with international human rights mechanisms. These relations could be maintained by holding every third IPHRC session in Geneva or New York.
  • Establishment of relations with OIC member states and other relevant experts in UN bodies, possibly by establishment of external advisory board to the IPHRC.
  • Appointment of an IPHRC focal person in Geneva to facilitate regular communication with UN human rights bodies.

The IPHRC should strengthen its internal composition. This includes:

  • Promotion of gender diversity among IPHRC commissioners.
  • Promotion of religious diversity among IPHRC commissioners.
  • Ensuring the independence of commissioners.
  • Establishment of transparent mechanisms for selecting candidates, ensuring public access to and information on the pool of candidates.
  • Establishment of a mechanism that ensures nomination and election of experts with a strong record of defending international human rights standards.

The IPHRC should strengthen OIC and member state capacities and knowledge on human rights. This includes:

  • Promotion of peer-to-peer capacity development.
  • Promotion of capacity development by external human rights experts.
  • Mainstreaming of outputs to relevant OIC agencies and departments.
  • Regular publication of thematic reports on human rights in member states.
  • Regular publication of country-specific reports.

After completing the above steps, the IPHRC (and the OIC) should ensure sustainable resources for its work. This includes:

  • Upgrade of human resources in the IPHRC secretariat.
  • Strengthening the IPHRC and its secretariat’s fundraising capacity.
  • Encouragement of in-kind support by international human rights experts, institutions and organizations.
  • Advertisement of volunteer positions and internships with the IPHRC.
  • Introduction of a system for secondment with other international human rights institutions and organizations.

Signatories*

Evelyn Aswad, professor, College of Law, Oklahoma University, US

Mashood Baderin, professor, School of Law, University of London

Verena Beittinger-Lee, Ph.D., researcher, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent, UK

Anthony Chase, associate professor, Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College, US       

Ioana Cismas, Ph.D., international human rights lawyer, Switzerland   

Turan Kayaoglu, associate professor, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, US             

Ann Elizabeth Mayer, associate professor, Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department, University of Pennsylvania, US               

Mahmoud Monshipouri, associate professor, Department of International Relations, San Francisco State University, US               

Johannes Morsink, professor, Department of Political Science, Drew University, US

Marie Juul Petersen, Ph.D., researcher, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Denmark

Heini Skorini, Ph.D. student, King’s College, University of London, UK

*This article reflects the views of its two authors and not necessarily those of the other signatories to the recommendations.

*Turan Kayaoğlu is an associate professor at the University of Washington in Tacoma.

Source: Todays Zaman

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Press Release of OIC IPHRC on International Women’s Day 2014

Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on March 11, 2014


IPHRC Secretariat, 08/03/2014

The Independent Permanent Human Right Commission (IPHRC) of the OIC, on the occasion of the Intentional Women’s Day (IWD), joins women advocates of rights of women and girls all over the world in celebrating the achievements of women in all facets of life; while fully cognizant of the fact that immense work still lies ahead in the effort to improve the socio-economic condition of women around the globe. 

These challenges range from violence to various forms of discrimination. Women continue to be discriminated in areas such as access to education, employment, resources as well as participation in political and policy decision making processes at national and international levels. Being one of the vulnerable groups, women under conflict/foreign occupation; with disability and those who live in extreme poverty also face multiple forms of discrimination. 

While equal access to education and employment and participation in decision making processes is fundamental to ensuring women empowerment and gender equality, the process must begun with addressing de-facto and de-jure discrimination in policy and practice at all levels including through training of concerned officials, and awareness raising of general public. Women must be able to shape the future of their countries by being involved in all reform processes from the beginning. Their full participation is essential not only for their empowerment, but for the advancement of society as a whole. 

IPHRC recalls that Islam forbids discrimination on any grounds including race, religion or sex. In recognition of the rights granted to women by Islam, OIC Member States adopted the OIC Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women (OPAAW) that calls upon Member States to take specific actions to ensure their effective participation in the economic, social, political and cultural aspects of the society. 

IPHRC has set women’s rights as one of its top priority issues since its first session in Jakarta in 2011. The Commission has also established a special Working Group on women and child rights to undertake studies and research on the situation of women in the OIC Member States and to provide technical cooperation and awareness-raising toward the enhancement and the betterment of their lives. The Working Group is currently carrying out a study on legislation and policies pertaining to rights of women in Member States with a view to presenting best practices on eliminating discrimination and violence against women and girls, which hamper full enjoyment of their human rights. 

On this important day, IPHRC calls upon all Member States to ratify the statute of OIC Women Development Organization (WDO), on priority. This will enable the WDO to start its valuable work i.e. helping Member States in effective implementation of the OPAAW.

The Commission supports all women who are contributing and working for positive changes in their families, communities and societies. IPHRC also looks forward to working and collaborating with other international, regional and national institutions to promote the laudable goal of women empowerment and gender equality.

Source: OIC Secretariat

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