The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq (OHCHR) and the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) are concerned about the potential effect of the proposed National Identity Law, particularly Article 26, on minority ethnic and religious communities of Iraq.
Article 26 stipulates that where an individual converts to Islam, then any child of that person will also be deemed to have converted – irrespective of whether the child is in the custody of that parent and regardless of the express wishes of the child concerned.
“Freedom of religion – including the freedom to change one’s religion – is a basic human right which is protected by a range of international human rights conventions to which Iraq is a party”, stated Francesco Motta, Director of UNAMI Human Rights Office and the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq.
“As a principle of international law and the Constitution of Iraq which protects religious freedom, the determination of religious adherence remains a personal choice of all individuals regardless of age, gender, or other distinguishing factors”, he said, “it is inappropriate that the law dictate this choice on behalf of any individual”.
Mr. Motta expressed his concern at the effect Article 26 could potentially have on minority ethnic and religious communities in Iraq.
While welcoming the resolution adopted by the majority of the Council of Representatives on 17 November declaring its intention to amend the law, he called on the members of the Council of Representatives to reconsider Article 26 and either remove it from the proposed Law, or amend it to make it clear that the determination of the child’s religion for purposes of personal status law should only be made once she or he turns 18 years of age and can make a free and informed personal decision.
(UN image via Shutterstock)