Because your opponents may become violent

This is immensely depressing.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression will now be required to report on the “abuse” of this most cherished freedom by anyone who, for example, dares speak out against Sharia laws that require women to be stoned to death for adultery or young men to be hanged for being gay, or against the marriage of girls as young as nine, as in Iran.

Good, isn’t it? The Rapporteur was supposed to report on violations of freedom of expression, now she will be required to report on the use of it.

There can no longer be any pretence that the Human Rights Council can defend human rights. The moral leadership of the UN system has moved from the States who created the UN in the aftermath of the Second World War, committed to the concepts of equality, individual freedom and the rule of law, to the Islamic States, whose allegiance is to a narrow, medieval worldview defined exclusively in terms of man’s duties towards Allah, and to their fellow-travellers, the States who see their future economic and political interests as being best served by their alliances with the Islamic States.

Well, adios equality, individual freedom and the rule of law, hello duties towards a tyrannical misogynist invented male deity.

The Sri Lankan delegate explained clearly his reasons for supporting the amendment: “.. if we regulate certain things ‘minimally’ we may be able to prevent them from being enacted violently on the streets of our towns and cities.” In other words: Don’t exercise your right to freedom of expression because your opponents may become violent. For the first time in the 60 year history of UN Human Rights bodies, a fundamental human right has been limited simply because of the possible violent reaction by the enemies of human rights. The violence we have seen played out in reaction to the Danish cartoons is thus excused by the Council – it was the cartoonists whose freedom of expression needed to be regulated. And Theo van Gogh can be deemed responsible for his own death.

That’s just it. ‘Don’t exercise your right to freedom of expression because your opponents may become violent.’ That may in certain circumstances (a bully has a knife at your throat; the Nazis have taken over) be sane prudential advice, but it is never principled advice. It may be a necessary precaution in times of extreme danger, but it should never ever be treated as the moral high ground. Giving bullies what they demand with menaces is not ever the moral high ground.

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