FaithWorld

European human rights court faults Ireland on abortion ban

echr (Photo: European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, January 30, 2009/Vincent Kessler)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Ireland on Thursday for stopping a Lithuanian cancer sufferer from terminating a pregnancy, in a blow to the predominantly Catholic country and its tough abortion laws. In a final ruling, the rights court found Ireland had not respected the privacy and family rights of the Lithuanian woman, who was living in Ireland and feared a pregnancy could trigger a relapse of her cancer, in remission at the time.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, ordered Ireland to pay 15,000 euros ($19,840) in damages to the woman, who was forced to travel to Britain, where the laws are more liberal, to have an abortion. Terminating a pregnancy has long been a fraught issue in Ireland, where some of the toughest abortion laws in Europe allow terminations only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“The Court concluded that neither the medical consultation nor litigation options, relied on by the Irish government, constituted effective and accessible procedures which allowed (her) to establish her right to a lawful abortion in Ireland,” it said a statement on the ruling. Here is a court press release and the full text of the judgment.

Ireferendum 1reland’s Health Minister Mary Harney said the government would have to introduce a law clarifying when abortion is legal in Ireland. Currently, a woman can have a termination if she has cervical cancer, an ectopic pregnancy or high blood pressure. “Clearly we have to legislate there is no doubt about that,” she told national broadcaster RTE.  “I think the essence of the judgment is that we have constitutional provisons and we need to give legal effect to them.” (Photo: Pro-Life Alliance poster for a referendum on abortion in Ireland, March 4, 2002/Paul McErlane)

The court rejected appeals by two other women, both Irish, who also had travelled to Britain in 2005 for abortions. One was an unemployed, former alcoholic who was suffering from depression, living in poverty and trying to recover custody of four children from foster care when she got pregnant. The other did not want to become a single parent and feared an extra-uterine pregnancy.

Guestview: The infliction of the blasphemy law in Pakistan

asia bibi 1 (Photo: Protesters demand release of Asia Bibi, in Lahore November 21, 2010/Mohsin Raza)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone.  Naeem Shakir is a Lahore-based human rights activist and advocate of the Pakistan Supreme Court.

By Naeem Shakir

The religious minorities in Pakistan are once again awe-struck over the death sentence passed against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, for committing blasphemy. The fear and scare such tragic events create and spread amongst the minorities goes down their spine and dampens their spirits as citizens of Pakistan. They wonder for how long they would be persecuted for having a faith different from the Muslim majority. Each time it has been found that the blasphemy law was used either for religious persecution or for settling personal scores or grabbing land.

In Asia Bibi’s case, the complainant was a local clergyman Qari Mohammad Salam. He was neither present at the place of occurrence nor personally heard the blasphemous words allegedly uttered by Asia Bibi. Muslim women who worked with Asia Bibi in the falsa fruit fields of a local landlord informed him on June 19, 2009 that on June 14, Asia uttered blasphemous remarks about the Prophet (PBUH) and the Quran. The two sisters admitted in evidence that a quarrel took place regarding drinking water that Asia brought, which was declared as ‘unclean’ and they refused to drink it. The complainant stated that she confessed her guilt before a religiously charged mob.

Israeli rabbis tell Jews not to sell homes to Arabs, Netanyahu disagrees (updated)

settlement (Photo: A sign advertising apartments for sale in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem March 2, 2009/Ammar Awad)

Dozens of Israeli rabbis, some of them civil servants, issued an appeal on Tuesday telling locals not to sell or rent property to non-Jews, drawing condemnation from lawmakers and human rights activists. The open letter underscored Jewish-Arab tensions that have deepened along with Israel’s deadlocked Palestinian conflict, as well as more recent demographic fears triggered by an influx of illegal African migrants.

“The land of Israel is intended for the people of Israel,” Yosef Shainin, chief rabbi of the southern port city of Ashdod and one of the 41 signatories, told Israel’s Army Radio when asked about the letter.

Obtained by Reuters ahead of its planned publication in synagogues and religious journals, the letter quotes warnings by ancient sages that living with non-Jews can lead to “sacrilege.” Other concerns for property values are also raised. Another signatory, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Nagari from the Maale Adumim settlement, said: “If you allow Arabs into Jewish neighborhoods, you are asking for feuds to ensue.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Sentenced to death: On Pakistan’s minorities

aasia bibiEarlier this year I asked someone who had been a senior minister in the government of Pakistan why the country could not change laws which discriminated against minorities. I asked the question because more than 80 people from the minority Ahmadi sect had just been killed in two mosques in Lahore, which at the time served as a wake-up call of the dangers of growing religious intolerance in Pakistan.

His answer was unhesitating. You could not possibly do something like that in Pakistan.

Such is the power of the religious lobbies that no government dares challenge them. Each "wake-up" call is soon forgotten until another injustice against religious minorities punches its way to the surface.

Factbox-U.S. cites repression of religious freedom around the world

The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.

Following are some of the conclusions from the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report on eight countries previously named as areas of “special concern” over their limits on religious freedom.

religious 1MYANMAR (BURMA)

The report said Myanmar’s military rulers ignored constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political liberties.

Cuba’s Catholic Church to open first new seminary in decades

havana cathedral (Photo: Havana’s Catholic cathedral, June 14, 2010/Desmond Boylan)

The Roman Catholic Church will open on Wednesday its first new seminary in Cuba in more than half a century in a further sign of its improving relations with the island’s communist-led government.

The seminary replaces a similar school for future priests that was  expropriated by Cuba’s communist authorities in 1966 and transformed first into a military barracks, then a police academy.

Catholic officials said Cuban President Raul Castro was expected to attend the inauguration — reflecting the more cordial relations between the Church and the government. Castro turned to the Church this year to serve as an internal interlocutor as he faced growing international pressure over political prisoners and human rights.

Factbox – Planned protests during pope’s visit to Britain

pope visit image (Photo: Official papal visit memorabilia at Catholic bookshop in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)

Demonstrations are planned for Pope Benedict’s four-day state visit to England and Scotland, with the main focus likely to be on a Protest the Pope campaign march in central London Saturday, Sept 18.

Other separate protests are planned, including a bus poster campaign by a group supporting women’s ordination and a silent witness by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.

Here is an outline of some of the main protests likely to take to the streets:

* VICTIMS OF CHILD ABUSE:

– The American group SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, say they will demonstrate with posters. A handful will fly over to join victims in England and Scotland.

GUESTVIEW: Why stoning Sakineh is a mistake

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. This interview with Abdullahi Ahmed an-Naim and Massimo Papa about Iran’s stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani on charges of adultery was originally published in Oasis, a Venice-based magazine on Christian-Muslim dialogue. Martino Diez is director of research at the Oasis International Foundation. sakinehBy Martino Diez .

Professor Naim, what is your assessment of Sakineh’s case?
Officially, the authorities maintain this is a straightforward murder case. Although I have not followed the matter in detail, I think that the ambiguity of the versions produced throughout the years is suspicious and betrays the presence of political manipulation. This poor woman has ended up at the centre of a struggle between different underground factions. There are many cases similar to this. (Photo: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in an undated photo handout from Amnesty International)

About this charge, and especially the (momentarily suspended) sentence, the authorities have invoked Islamic legitimation. Sakineh’s case would be included in the hudùd category, which comprises crimes explicitly defined as such in the Koran itself: murder, adultery, theft, slander and alcohol consumption.

Iran tells world: don’t make woman’s stoning a human rights issue

stoningForeign countries should not interfere in Iran’s legal system and stop trying to turn the case of a woman sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery into a human rights issue, Tehran said on Tuesday. (Photo: Demonstrator against stoning in Trafalgar Square, London, August 28, 2010/Paul Hackett)

The case of the 43-year-old mother of two, condemned to death for illicit sex and charged with involvement in her husband’s murder, provoked an international outcry, with Brazil offering her asylum and the Vatican speaking out against the “brutal” punishment.

stoning 2A government spokesman said the furor was based on false information about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case.  “Unfortunately, (they are) defending a person who is being tried for murder and adultery, which are two major crimes of this lady and should not become a human rights issue,” Foreign Ministry Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.

Italy and 10 allies fight Euro rights court’s school crucifix ban

crucifix (Photo: Demonstrator outside European Court of Human Rights with leaflet saying in Italian and French: “Let’s defend the crucifix,” 30 June 2010/Vincent Kessler)

Italy and 10 other European states urged the continent’s top human rights court on Wednesday to overturn its ban on crucifixes in schools, arguing they were signs of national identity and not overtly religious symbols. The alliance of traditionally Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian countries backing Italy’s appeal against the ban which was handed down last November reflected their concern that the court had set a precedent for strict secularism across Europe.

A group of 33 European Parliament members also supported Rome’s appeal against the ban (full text here), which shocked the country and the Vatican at a time when Italy and other European states are debating immigration and religious rights for Muslims.

Most of Italy’s allies are smaller nations — Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Romania — but they also include Russia.  Moscow’s participation reflects the growing activism of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has joined the Roman Catholic Church in denouncing the widespread secularization of a continent once synonymous with the term “Christendom.”