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UN expert on religious freedom launches first official visit to Lebanon

GENEVA / BEIRUT (18 March 2015) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt will carry out his first information-gathering visit to Lebanon, from 23 March to 2 April 2015, to assess the freedom of religion or belief in the country.

“I am keen to learn more about the coexistence of different religious or belief communities in Lebanon and find positive examples,” Mr. Bielefeldt said. “It will also be an opportunity for me to assess the freedom of religion or belief of refugees and migrants.”

The work of the Special Rapporteur, as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, also requires him to identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present specific recommendations to overcome them.

During this eleven-day mission, Mr. Bielefeldt will meet with various government officials, representatives of religious or belief communities, including the refugees, civil society organizations and the UN.

The expert will share with the media his preliminary findings during a press conference on 2 April 2015, at 11:00 in the Cedars Conference Room at Raddison Blu Martinez Hotel, Phoenicia Street, Ain El Mreisseh, Beirut. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.

Following his visit, the Special Rapporteur will present a report containing his conclusions and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council at a future session in 2016.

Heiner Bielefeldt (Germany) assumed his mandate in August 2010. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

An e-Digest on Freedom of Religion or Belief – 25 years of thought by four UN Special Rapporteurs (download your copy): http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Religion/RapporteursDigestFreedomReligionBelief.pdf

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ReligionOrBelief.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – Lebanon:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/LBIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact:
In Beirut, during the visit: Jessy Chahine (+961 1 962538 / jchahine@ohchr.org) or
Chian Yew Lim (+41 79 752 0483 / clim@ohchr.org)
In Geneva, before and after the visit: Chian Yew Lim (+41 22 928 9310 / clim@ohchr.org) or write to freedomofreligion@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en