Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

The European Humanist Federation points out that the 2014 EU report on countries that are candidates for membership does a lousy job of monitoring abuses of the rights of non-believers in those countries.

…the 2014 reports have clearly failed to address the situation for non-believers in these countries, with not one single mention of their situation being present within the section on ‘Freedom of thought, conscience and religion’ in this year’s reports.

They do a good job on reporting violations of the rights of adherents of minority religions, but they leave out the rights of adherents of no religion. It’s as if rights came with religion but not with no religion.

Negating [neglecting?] to report on the situation for non-believers is one thing, but choosing to ignore outright attacks on the rights of non-believers is another thing altogether. Of all of the candidate countries, Turkey possesses the most repressive political climate for non-believers, with past progress reports declaring that “citizens professing a faith other than that of the majority, or with no faith, continued to experience discrimination[12]. However the 2014 report fails to report adequately on the situation for non-believers in Turkey, ignoring entirely instances such as in February of this year, when President Erdoğan equated Atheists with terrorists[13]. Moreover, there was a lack of criticism of the continuing existence of Article 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code[14] which has been used by authorities to curb the freedom of expression of Atheists, who are harassed and arrested for writing critical statements about religion either in books or online[15].

The rights of non-believers should form just as an important cornerstone of the progress reports as the rights of ethnic, sexual and religious minorities, and the Commission has failed to report on the challenges which non-believers face on a daily basis within potential and confirmed candidate countries. This is why the EHF calls on the Commission to include explicit references to the situation for non-believers in candidate countries in future reports. After all, if the EU truly believes that the right to freedom of expression for non-believers is a fundamental right, then the ability to exercise this right within candidate countries must be scrutinised, to better assess the commitment on behalf of these states to the advancement of fundamental human rights for all citizens, religious or otherwise.

Second that.


  1. RJW says

    Surely not Turkey, the examplar of ‘moderate’ secular Islam, there must be some mistake.
    “Turkey possess the most repressive political climate for non-believers”, and ethnic and religious minorities, ask the Kurds.
    Eurocrats regularly strut around the world patronisingly lecturing others on human rights, perhaps they should pay attention to their own backyard, I can’t believe, that Turkey, given its contemporary political culture could ever be admitted to the EU. Perhaps the the Euro-fantasy of re-creating the Roman Empire is just too powerful.

  2. Al Dente says

    Some of us remember the case of Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan. In 2012 he announced his atheism on Facebook. He was arrested for insulting religion, transmission of blasphemy via the Internet, and false reporting on an official form. That last charge needs some explanation. Indonesians are legally required to register as members of one of six official religions thus forcing people who doesn’t believe in one of those religions, including people like Aan who don’t believe in any of them, to lie. Aan is presently serving a 30 month sentence.

  3. RJW says

    @2 Al Dente

    Yes, and the government has abandoned Aceh to Sharia as part of a ‘peace’ deal, naive commentators continue to cite Turkey and Indonesia as moderate Muslim majority countries. ‘Moderate’ only when compared with the average Muslim state.

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