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Launching 'Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence', the second edition of the CLICC commentary, and Arabic and French Lexsitus

New York, 5 December 2023, 13:15-14:45, UNHQ, Conference Room 8

Programme | Anthology on religion and hate speech | Lexsitus | AV recording | UN Web TV | Project page on religion and hate speech

Digital public goods are rapidly changing the way international criminal law is disseminated, studied and consulted around the world. The Digital Public Goods Alliance has already certified a publisher that specializes in international criminal law (the Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher (‘TOAEP’)) and the leading e-learning platform in the field (Lexsitus), both built onto the award-winning ICC Legal Tools Database. Chaired by Professor Gregory S. Gordon (Chinese University of Hong Kong), with an introductory statement by Ambassador Monica Furnes (Norway), this special event at UNHQ discussed a significant new TOAEP-release on religion and hate speech and a commentary in Arabic, English and French on Lexsitus.

Hate Speech in the Name of Religion

In addition to detailed case-studies and analyzes of normative frameworks and motivations behind hate speech in the name of religion, the anthology Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence (1,156 pp.) contains more than 230 pages of discussion on measures available for religious leaders to reduce hate speech originating in their communities. The book also discusses the role of international criminal law (‘ICL’) and justice, including the use of thematic prosecution. The following experts offered their reflections on the comprehensive anthology: H.E. Karim A.A. Khan KC (Prosecutor, International Criminal Court), H.E. Dr. Bahia Tahzib-Lie (Dutch Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative), Professor Nazila Ghanea (Oxford University; UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief), Professor Mohamed E. Badar (Northumbria University), and Dr. Song Tianying (CILRAP Research Fellow).

Welcoming the book as “a renewed opportunity to globally better grapple with issues around religious hatred and violence”, Ambassador Dr. Tahzib-Lie stated that the event provided “an excellent moment of reflection on how intolerance and prejudice, when leading to hateful expression or hate speech, can have a profoundly corrosive effect on society”: “I therefore very much welcome the online and offline release of the comprehensive anthology Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence. This publication offers a renewed opportunity to globally better grapple with issues around religious hatred and violence. And the very fact that it is available online also gives an opportunity for anyone in the world who has access to Internet to really be informed of the issues that are discussed”. Referring to the anthology as “a book that enriches, inspires and also challenges us”, she observed that it “is really timely as we are globally witnessing a rise in religious hate speech, violence and discrimination, both online and offline, deepening social fractions and increasing divisions and polarisation. The crisis in the Middle East and the increase of antisemitism and islamophobia around the world is one of the latest examples. I therefore really hope that the book will be widely disseminated, referred to and used”, and “that policy makers, practitioners and activists will keep a copy on their desk for easy access or have a tap with ‘favourite’ towards this book, because any victim of religious hatred is one too many”.

Highlighting the book’s focus on religious leaders, Ambassador Dr. Tahzib-Lie emphasized that they “can – or rather they should – speak out more and more often against religious hatred. They can all play a crucial and effective role, as Professor Gordon said, in their communities and beyond, as they wield authority over the hearts and minds of millions of believers around the world and in their own communities. And their role is particularly significant when it comes to averting increasing polarization, reducing and preventing hate speech coming from their own ranks, and supporting victims. They can also enhance solidarity, social cohesion, mutual respect, dialogue and understanding. The book provides concrete inspiration and practical guidance on how this can be done, as there is always room for improvement”.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Professor Ghanea, said that the “recent spike in discrimination, hostility and violence based on, or in the name of, religion or belief is impossible to ignore”, and that her next thematic report to the Human Rights Council will be on advocacy of hatred. She remarked that the new anthology “gives extremely helpful, deeply researched examples in this regard, reflecting the kinds of nuanced understanding needed in order to react effectively and after consideration”, and expressed her hope that it “inspires the urgent, thorough and strategic reflection and action which is necessary to address this issue” and her anticipation of further engagement and collaboration.

Referring to the new book as “a necessary new publication”, ICC Prosecutor Khan KC called for “an accumulation of actors, an accumulation of measures and courage to do what is right, not what is popular, and to speak up. And this is where religion can also play a very important part”. He called on partnerships to reinforce the “structures built in the shadow of the Holocaust”, because “these structures are not succeeding in preventing the tyranny, the despair, the targeting that we should care about, not only speak about”. He observed that principles shared by religions, “these gems that sparkle, and glisten, and illuminate the dark pages of history, the dark hours, the dark days we are living in, need to be centre stage. Otherwise, all we see is darkness and gloom and frustration. There is enough beauty in civilization from the belief of all religions, that echoes our fundamental principles of humanity. And I think for that reason and many other, this is a wonderful event, it is one that has great potential, and I am honoured to say a few words”.

Underlining that religious leaders “should think in terms of their spiritual responsibility and the long-term interest of the group”, Dr. Song Tianying urged them to “see hate speech as it is – a perversion of religion and erroneous interpretations of doctrines. They should not use or endorse hate speech to gain influence in the first place. They should sharpen their radar for hate speech and intervene as early as possible”. Professor Badar highlighted the importance of education addressing the problem of indoctrination of children, and effective dissemination of counter-narratives in ways that reach people in poorer countries.

Professor Gordon observed that, for him, “Religion, Hateful Expression and Violence is now one of the most important volumes in this field for it explores this topic from an angle hitherto very much unexplored – hate speech in relation to religion”. The book is “first-rate scholarship with many game-changing insights about the deeper issues underlying theology, free expression and protection of victim groups. David Luban’s piece, “Bloodthirsty Religion: An Inquiry into the Religious Sources of Hateful and Violent Speech” is a good example. But it is also loaded with practical advice and potential corrective solutions – Morten Bergsmo’s piece “On the Problem of Hateful Expression in the Name of Religion” captures this in its end section but also engages with the more theoretical issues in its opening sections.”. TOAEP offers “thought-provoking/conceptual game-changing scholarship for ICL”, Professor Gordon remarked.

Has the Future of Digital Capacity-Building in International Criminal Law Arrived?

The 2,300-page Commentary on the Law of the International Criminal Court (‘CLICC’) is freely available in Lexsitus, the leading ICL e-learning platform, in ArabicEnglish and French. Four thought leaders discussed the significance of digital public goods and digital capacity-building, Lexsitus and the commentary (including a new three-volume English edition), and the positive implications for the LTD as an ICL global commons: Professor and Head of School Olympia Bekou (University of Nottingham), H.E. Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut (International Criminal Court), Professor Mohamed E. Badar (Northumbria University; Chief Editor, Arabic CLICC), and Professor Mark Klamberg (Stockholm University; the Chief Editor of CLICC).

Ambassador Furnes remarked that “Norway has supported the development of the e-learning platform Lexsitus and the ICC Legal Tools Database. Both are now mature digital public goods with comprehensive content and many users. This helps to put the field of international criminal law in the forefront of the use of digital public goods”. Professor Gordon pointed out that “we have evidence of the continuing digital information revolution in ICL, which has been spurred by the ICC’s Legal Tools Database and, building on that, CILRAP’s own Lexsitus, which provides a needed learning platform for the Legal Tools Database and includes CLICC”.

ICC Judge Perrin de Brichambaut stated that the “familiarisation of the stakeholders with the Rome Statute requires an accessible, effective and inclusive set of practical instruments. Lexsitus is essential among them. The Court, its participating States, and its generous donors have agreed to entrust CILRAP with the task of complementing something that works and is used, which is the Legal Tools Database, with a comprehensive repertory of the state of the art of international criminal justice. This has been done by a very talented team, in a very professional way that is understandable to all, and that carefully reflects the balanced document that is the Rome Statute, while making full use of all the possibilities of modern technology”. He observed that the “Court is very grateful to CILRAP and to its team for their pioneering work in fostering a global service resource which enhances its visibility, the visibility of the Court and its outreach. We hope that Lexsitus, which has now been certified, will gain universal attention and recognition, and that this will open the way for further enhancements and deepening of what remains a fundamental advance in global human rights, which is the Rome Statute, and which is therefore coming generations”. He referred to Lexsitus and the Legal Tools as “a meeting place and as a forum” for innovative thought, exchange and dialogue, and mentioned the value of having Lexsitus in different languages, including Arabic (“and why not Persian”, a version of Lexsitus that CILRAP is seeking funding to complete).

Professor Olympia Bekou described how “a wider vision of creating a public commons of legal information” in international criminal law is becoming a reality through the ICC “Legal Tools Database, with its impressive coverage and millions of users, and recipient of prestigious awards”, a clear example of how the ICC “has successfully taken the lead and demonstrated innovation, in partnership with universities and external organisations”. As “one of the successful services that has been built drawing on the LTD”, Lexsitus “is not only evolving into the leading e-learning platform for international criminal law, but it is also transforming into a truly global platform that embraces the diversity of linguistic traditions around the world”, she remarked.

Both Professor Bekou and Professor Mark Klamberg expressed the hope that the development of digital public goods in international criminal law can serve as a model for other disciplines of international law. As the Chief Editor and creator of the CLICC commentary, Klamberg referred to its online version as the crown or jewel of the project, and he informed the participants that the different language versions of the commentary will be dynamic and have editorial autonomy.

This was a UN Web TV-streamed side-event to the 22nd Session of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, convened by CILRAP, sponsored by Norway, co-sponsored by the Indian Society of International Law, Coalition for International Criminal Justice, Clinique de droit international pénal et humanitaire (Université Laval), Stockholm Center for International Law and Justice, Human Rights Law Centre (University of Nottingham), Northumbria Centre for Evidence and Criminal Justice Studies, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and Canadian Partnership for International Justice.


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