A-BR ACTION REQUEST: DECEMBER VOTE ON "DEFAMATION OF RELIGIONS"

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
09STATE122629 30 November 2009 No clasificado United States Secretary of State in Washington

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 STATE 122629

SIPDIS
GRULAC
EAP
AND SCA DISTRIBUTION

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UN, PHUM, UNGA
SUBJECT: A-BR ACTION REQUEST: DECEMBER VOTE ON "DEFAMATION
OF RELIGIONS"

REF: A. STATE 109397
B. STATE 111466

1. (SBU) During the week of 7-12 December, the deeply
problematic "combating defamation of religions" resolution,
which seeks to undermine established human rights of freedom
of religion and expression, will come to the plenary session
at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for a final vote. This
resolution passed out of the UNGA’s Third Committee on
November 12th by a vote of 81-55(U.S.)-43. Increasing the
number of "no" votes and abstentions between the November
12th and December vote is a priority of the Department.
Drawing on reftel (UNGA third committee priorities and
demarche request on the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary
Standards) points, and the additional talking points and
information noted in paragraphs 2 - 15, Posts are requested
to demarche at the highest appropriate level to seek host
government views on the resolution, educate about the
potential dangers of the "defamation" concept, and to solicit
support to vote against the resolution, or, as a fall back,
to abstain. Note specific background by region with voting
information provided in paragraphs 6 through 15. Posts are
requested to respond by Monday, December 7 via front channel
cable using SIPDIS caption. Posts should not deliver this
demarche if they determine it would be counterproductive to
do so, and in such cases, are requested to inform Department
(IO-RHS and DRL-IRF) of their rationale.


GENERAL BACKGROUND


2. Per Ref A, the resolution is sponsored by the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a 57-nation
block with majority or significant Muslim populations, which
has successfully brought similar resolutions before the UNGA
Third Committee and the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in
Geneva. Among the stated concerns behind the resolution is
that negative stereotyping or offensive statements about
Islam contribute to discrimination against Muslims around the
world. For reasons noted in reftels A and B, the United
States strongly opposes the &defamation of religions8
concept, but condemns negative stereotypes of Islam and
believes it is incumbent upon governments to foster a society
of respect, diversity, and understanding. In submissions to
the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to
the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards (a subsidiary
body of the Human Rights Council through which some in the
OIC and Africa Group are using to advocate for the creation
of a new international legally binding treaty on racism and
religious intolerance that would prohibit &defamation of

STATE 00122629 002 OF 005

religions8), the United States has offered an alternative
vision for combating intolerance and discrimination that
would not infringe on the freedom of expression or freedom of
religion and center on pro-active implementation of existing
human rights obligations. Posts may wish to refer to these
documents and can find these submissions on the IO-Human
Rights (IO-HR) intranet website
http://io.p.state.sbu/RHS/default.aspx, under the title
"Defamation of Religions," which can be located on the
left-hand side of the page.

3. The &defamation8 debate has garnered considerable
attention within the Department and on the Hill, and was the
focus of a recent hearing held by the Tom Lantos Commission
on Human Rights. The Secretary is personally concerned about
the negative impact of the defamation concept, and mentioned
our concerns in numerous addresses, including most recently
at the release of the Annual Report on International
Religious Freedom (http://www.state.gov/secretary
/rm/2009a/10/130937.htm.) Members of Congress have also
directly lobbied governments on this issue. Copies of
letters signed by 35 members of Congress are available on the
IO-HR intranet website. These may be downloaded and left
with host government counterparts as a means of reinforcing
the bipartisan concern over this issue in all parts of the
U.S. government.
4. Posts seeking additional background or information on
how host country voted in the recent Third Committee vote
should please visit the IO/HR intranet site. The most recent
voting sheets and an Excel chart with votes over the last
three years is posted on the IO/HR site. Also available on
that website is the "Defamation of Religions" non-paper
distributed in New York, and that may be left behind with
host country counterparts. The non-paper, which is available
in English, Spanish, includes examples of specific cases when
the defamation concept has been used to justify human rights
abuses. We are also in the process of translating the
non-paper into French and Arabic.


SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS


5. Begin talking points:
— The "defamation of religions" concept is a threat to
minority groups everywhere. It has already resulted in the
death or incarceration of people across the globe, persecuted
because of what they believe and how they have expressed
themselves. The promulgation of the "defamation of
religions8 concept is one of the most serious threats to the
global human rights system. Secretary Clinton has taken a
personal interest in combating the &defamation8 concept and
we are following closely where governments line up on this
issue.

— While the United States recognizes the OIC’s stated

STATE 00122629 003 OF 005

concern underlying the "defamation" resolution regarding
discrimination and intolerance, we think there are better
ways we can practically address these concerns without
seeking limits or restrictions on speech. Calls for such
limitations or bans on freedom of expression are
unacceptable, not only due to the importance of free speech,
but also because we believe that suppressing speech does not
increase tolerance; rather it has the opposite effect.

— Rather than limited or banning offensive speech, the
United States believes that the most effective role for
government is to: (i) proactively reach out to minority
groups, in particular, to address discrimination and
intolerance, (ii) develop appropriate legal regimes to
adjudicate discriminatory acts and hate crimes, and (iii)
allow diversity to flourish through robust freedom of
religion and expression protections.

— The US is committed to robust implementation of existing
international human rights law, including the International
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and
to working constructively with the international community,
in particular OIC countries, on this difficult and polarizing
issue. For example, at the recent meeting of the Ad Hoc
Committee on Complementary Standards in Geneva, the U.S.
delegation submitted an Action Plan to Combat Racial and
Religious Discrimination and Intolerance. (See IO-HR website
and online at http://Geneva.usmission.
gov/2009/11/09/complementary-standards.)

— We ask you to vote against the "Defamation of Religions"
resolution, or as a fall back, to abstain. We note that in
the recent Third Committee vote and even in the HRC, "no"
votes and abstentions outnumbered the "yes" votes. Support
for the resolution is falling as governments see the negative
impacts resulting from the defamation concept.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR WHA POSTS:

6. Chile, Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay have taken the bold
step of voting against the resolution at UNGA and should be
thanked for their support. We would welcome their views on
how to convince others in Latin America to do the same.
Likewise, Bahamas and Jamaica helpfully shifted from yes to
abstention and should be encouraged to continue to abstain or
to vote "no". Continuing to break the GRULAC block is
essential to the success of USG efforts to put an end to this
polarizing debate.

7. Posts are requested to approach countries that have
consistently abstained to urge them to vote &no.8 This
includes: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador,
Grenada, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad-Tobago).
Similarly, Posts should reach out to countries that were
absent during the vote (St. Kitts-Nevis, Haiti) and probe if

STATE 00122629 004 OF 005

they are willing to abstain in person or vote 8no.8 Posts
should also approach consistent "yes" voters or countries
that have switched their votes in an unhelpful manner to gain
views about the resolution and to state USG commitment to
addressing issues of concern, as noted in the recent Action
Plan submitted to the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary
Standards. This includes Antigua-Barbuda, Barbados, Belize,
Bolivia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guyana,
Honduras, Nicaragua, St. Vincent-Grenadines, Suriname, and
Venezuela.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR EAP POSTS:

8. Vanuatu took the step to vote "no" for the first time
this year and should be thanked for it. Republic of Korea
maintained its &no8 vote and we would welcome ROK’s views
on how to convince others to do the same. Posts are also
requested to engage with countries that have abstained to
urge them to vote against the resolution. This includes
Fiji, Japan, Mongolia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon
Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, and Tuvalu. The abstention of
Japan, in particular, is curious. It should be noted that
Fiji switched its vote from "yes" to "abstain" for the first
time this year and that Nauru was not present at the vote
this year.

9. Posts should also approach consistent &yes8 voters to
gain views about the resolution and to state USG commitment
to addressing issues of concern, as noted in the recent
Action Plan submitted to the Ad Hoc Committee on
Complementary Standards. This includes: Brunei, Burma,
Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR EUR POSTS:

10. Posts in EUR are requested to approach countries that
have abstained, voted yes, or were absent during the vote to
urge them to vote &no8 or abstain, as a fall back. This
includes Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Russia, and Turkey. USUN has heard that
Bosnia-Herzegovina will switch to an abstention for the
Plenary. Posts should confirm this switch with capital.
Despite OIC pressure to vote for the resolution, Albania
abstained on the resolution and should be thanked for its
abstention.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR AF POSTS

11. The &defamation8 resolution has wide support in
Africa, but it is unclear if that is because governments
themselves believe in the resolution, or because they are
going along with the wishes of the Africa Group leadership
(which includes Egypt, among the resolution’s main
proponents).

STATE 00122629 005 OF 005

12. There were several positive shifts in the vote count in
Africa, although no Africa country went so far as to vote no
this year. (Cape Verde and Liberia voted "no" at Third
Committee last year, but abstained or were absent this year.)
Posts are requested to thank countries that have switched
votes in a positive manner to express appreciation and
encourage their continued support ) this includes Cameroon,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Namibia.

13. Posts are requested to persuade countries that have
consistently abstained to vote &no.8 This includes
Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya,
Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. We would
be interested to understand why Cameroon abstains at the
Third Committee but votes "yes" at the HRC. Equatorial
Guinea has abstained in the past, but was absent at the vote
this year.

14. Posts should also approach consistent "yes" voters as
well as countries that have recently switched their votes in
an unhelpful manner to gain views about the resolution and to
state USG commitment to addressing issues of concern, as
noted in the recent Action Plan submitted to the Ad Hoc
Committee on Complementary Standards. This includes: Angola,
Benin, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D’Ivoire,
Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea,
Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria,
Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South
Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, and Uganda. It should be
noted that South Africa and some other African states see
&defamation of religions8 as a way to protect human
dignity.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR SCA POSTS

15. Posts are requested to persuade consistent Yes voters
to vote "no" or at least abstain. This includes: Bhutan,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and
Uzbekistan. Posts are requested to encourage countries who
have abstained to continue to abstain or vote "no." This
includes: India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. It should be noted
that Sri Lanka abstained for the first time this year ) a
positive development.

SPECIFIC REQUESTS AND VOTING INFORMATION FOR NEA POSTS

16. NEA posts are "info" on this demarche, as NEA countries
are consistent Yes voters and have not voted outside of an
OIC bloc vote to date. Department doubts that these votes
will change for the December vote, but includes NEA posts
here for background purposes and in the event that host
country raises the &defamation8 issue.

17. REPORTING DEADLINE AND POINTS OF CONTACT: Posts are
requested to respond by Monday, December 7th. Please direct
any questions or concerns to DRL/IRF Joannella
Morales/Nasreen Badat or IO/HR Amy Ostermeier/Colleen
Neville.
CLINTON