The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, European Convention on Human Rights’, and UK Human Rights Act 1998’s statements on freedom of thought, freedom of religion and freedom of expression

A general view of participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Courtesy of Flickr / United Nations Photo. https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/5553604787/
A general view of participants at the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Courtesy of Flickr / United Nations Photo. https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/5553604787/

I would like to share here three of the great legal declarations pertaining to freedom of thought, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression in the UK. We need constantly to remind ourselves of these great legal principles, because what has been clear for over a decade is that these freedoms are now under serious threat in the UK as well as in other Western democracies.

Contents

United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Articles 18 & 19

Enacted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out the inalienable rights of every human being. In some ways it represents a high point in human civilization; Western governments today would do well to take constant heed of its great principles.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18

Below I share its Articles 18 & 19 which pertain to freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

European Convention on Human Rights (1953), Articles 9 & 10

Drafted in 1950 by the then newly-formed Council of Europe, and coming into force for member states of the Council in 1953.

Article 9

Article 9 – Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

  1. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 10

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10

Article 10 – Freedom of expression

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

  1. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

UK Human Rights Act 1998, Articles 9 & 10

The Human Rights Act was passed by the UK Parliament in 1998 and came into force in 2000.

The wording of Article 9 is identical with that of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The wording of Article 10 is nearly identical with that of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights (comprising slight differences in wording in paragraph 2).

Article 9

Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

  1. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 10

Article 10: Freedom of expression

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

  1. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Sources

 

 

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