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The Legal Obligations of State and Non-State Actors in Respect of the Protection of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion or Belief

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In this article, the author examines the consequences of the recent recognition of the idea that not only States but also non-State actors can violate human rights. While this development can help in defining the positive obligations of States concerning the protection of freedom of religion or belief, it can also undermine its protection. In particular, the author warns against implications for State interference with what used to be the internal affairs of religious communities. Whereas positive State obligations concerning the acts of non-State actors can be relatively easily established in the case of clear criminal offences, it is much more difficult to establish these in the case of conflicts between various human rights. The author therefore concludes that a new comment by the Human Rights Committee is called for to clarify the implications of these new legal developments.

Affiliations: 1: Advisor on Human Rights and Peacebuilding in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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