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Download the full report - Human Rights Watch

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR, which

Yemen ratified in 1987, guarantees the right to freedom of expression, allowing for its

limitation only where provided by law and necessary for “respect of the rights or

reputations of others” or “for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre

public), or public health or morals.” 26

The Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that provides authoritative

interpretations of the ICCPR, has expanded on this in its General Comment on article 19, by

making clear that laws limiting freedom of expression must be sufficiently precise and not

overbroad in their reach: “laws must provide sufficient guidance to those charged with

their execution to enable them to ascertain what sorts of expression are properly restricted

and what sorts are not.” 27 Furthermore, restrictions must be “necessary” to serve one or

more of the legitimate purposes listed in article 19. 28 State authorities who invoke a

legitimate ground to restrict freedom of expression must be able to demonstrate in a

specific and individualized fashion the precise nature of the threat that requires

expression to be constrained, and the necessity and proportionality of the specific action

taken to constrain such expression, in particular by establishing a direct and immediate

connection between the expression and the threat. 29

The Human Rights Committee has also made clear that states party to the ICCPR may not

prohibit expression related to religious beliefs and institutions except in certain limited and

prescribed circumstances: “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other

belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant,” except

advocacy of religious or other hatred that amounts to incitement. 30 Such prohibitions must

be strictly necessary and proportionate in accordance with article 19, and be nondiscriminatory.

The committee noted that, “for instance, it would be impermissible for any

26 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N.

GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), entered into force Mar. 23, 1976, art. 19.

27 UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 34, Article 19: Freedoms of opinion and expression, U.N. Doc.

CCPR/C/GC/34 (2011), para. 25.

28 Ibid., para. 33.

29 Ibid., para. 35ftere was man Rights Watch that the tent, but were prevented by others present.ld be longembers of the

committee been adequately.

30 ICCPR, art. 20(2): “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination,

hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”

13

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH | SEPTEMBER 2013

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