State should be accountable for targeted assassinations of those who exercise the right to cultural expression

ARC’s statement on cultural rights during the Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights. 

34th session of the Human Rights Council

Item 3 – Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights

Statement by the Allied Rainbow Communities International

 Delivered by Erin Aylward

Mr. President,

We welcome the Report of the Special Rapporteur and particularly its sensitivity to how fundamentalisms undermine the right to cultural expression of LGBT people, women as well as minorities of many stripes and hues.

The Report rightly observes that ‘a democratic society recognizes differing viewpoints’ and we would like to draw attention to the Special Rapporteur’s expressed concern about the significant increase in hate speech and hate violence in the US, where Muslims, refugees, immigrants, Jews, Latinos, African Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and women’, in particular, have been targeted in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.  As others have expressed in this 34th session of the HRC, we are concerned to see the escalation of state-sponsored Islamophobia and xenophobia since the publication of the Special Rapporteur’s report, and we categorically reject the appropriation of LGBTI rights as a justification of Islamophobia.

We share the Special Rapporteur’s concern on how extremist and fundamentalist abuses of cultural rights have restricted sexual and reproductive health rights. We also note that those perceived as LGBT, along with other marginalized groups, all too frequently become targets of organized abuse by religious extremists and extreme nationalists.

The Special Rapporteur is right to observe that cultural rights can be undermined by the state or by vigilante elements who are allowed to function with impunity by the inactions of the state.

We would stress that the state should vigorously pursue judicial accountability for the targeted assassinations of those who exercise the right to freedom of expression by vigilante elements including Professor Kalburgi in India, Sabeen Mahmud in Pakistan, as well as ordinary people in Iraq, France, Syria, Bangladesh and Turkey.

The state has a serious responsibility to promote and protect cultural rights and should not use financial crisis, austerity, or as code words for slashing support to cultural expression.  Equally, as expressed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the former Secretary-General, and as articulated in article 4 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, and in the Special Rapporteur’s report, no one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.

Thank you, Mr. President.