Keith Best, CEO, of Torture Care, gave a short history of torture practices, and opposed any justification to torture, calling it ‘morally repugnant’. Torture is taking life without killing. Its fundamental purpose is to destroy someone's personality. It confounds the basic tennets of all the major religions. The inalienable rights to freedom and human dignity which come from God. The fact that the United States under George Bush Jr. was prepared to waterboard individuals and give evidence to the senatorial committee explaining that they had waterboarded people, I believe, lost the United States all moral authority as a result and did civilisation lasting damage.
Rt. Hon. Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC, Britain’s first black female Attorney General (2007-2010) shared her experiences in combating domestic violence in Britain. “Peace at home is a fundamental human right, which must be protected unconditionally” she stated. She encouraged all present to be involved in the elimination of domestic violence. She said in 2003 “1 in 4 women in the UK was a victim of domestic violence.” While after great hard work by 2009 the figure was improved to 1 in 6 women. She saw also the positive developments of a number of international efforts including the United Nations which made November 25th, the Elimination of Domestic Violence day, and the 16 days Campaign against Gender Violence beginning on November 25th and ending on Human Rights Day, December 10th. The Council of Europe has launched a far reaching Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women that has now been signed by 17 nations.
With long experience of these issues, Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths, was an excellent Chair for this Session on 'Religious Freedom - Global Issues'. He commented that, “It is appropriate today that we are having this discussion and the House of Lords are having (the Archbishop of Canterbury) debate on the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East, affirming that religious freedom is a basic human right. Faith communities themselves have much yet to learn about tolerance of other communities. They should move away from the historic exclusivism."
A speech entitled 'Religious Persecution in Pakistan' (full speech link) by Shiekh Rahman gave a personal and moving account of the persecution experienced in Pakistan by religious minorities. Particularly pressing upon the exclusion and violence experienced by his own religious community, the Ahmadiyya Muslims. Peter Zoehrer gave an account of religious persecution currently occurring in Japan. He described it as a “hidden human rights crime” of forced conversions and kidnappings of more than 4300 believers – predominantly Unification Church members, but also more than 100 Jehovah Witnesses leaving those who go through such ordeals are left psychologically traumatised and in some cases, physically decimated. Jura Nanuk, Deputy President, Croatian Religious Liberty Association, reported on the anti-religious legislation passed in the Hungarian parliament on 14/07/2011, that grants the government the right to determine whether a religious community could enjoy religious status. This legislation has led to the persecution of smaller religions.
'Commemorating Human Rights Day 2011: How Far Have We Progressed?'
Plenary Session ‘Human Rights Around Europe’